It is quiet now, in our home.
The refrigerator, once stuffed to the gills, is mostly empty. Shawn and I polished off a bunch of leftovers last night--roasted vegetables and lamb, some sausage and spaghetti squash lasagna--after our fourth trip to O'Hare in three days. I finished the last cup of yogurt for breakfast this morning. There's still quite a bit of ham, and a dwindling container of cheesy mashed potatoes, so we won't go hungry tonight.
The Christmas decorations. At this point in the season, they always seem to adopt a sag, a droop, a tiredness. They remind me of my own body, giving in to gravity with age. Once perky, red-plaid bows hang loose on evergreen garland that has slowly worked its way downward along the slope of the stairway railing. I wanted to leave the decorations up through the new year. Tonight will be the last night we turn the Christmas lights on; then the tear-down will begin.
Yes. Four trips to O'Hare in three days. Shannon and David had flights out on Monday at 8:30 p.m. There was a big storm in Chicago on Monday, but it was mostly over by evening. We spent the day checking for cancellations, but were apprised of nothing. So, we set out on the 2.5 hour drive up to Chicago at about 4 p.m. as the sun was going down.
After we'd driven for about an hour, David received notification that his flight was cancelled. Shannon, however, did not. So we soldiered on.
We dropped Shannon at O'Hare at about 6:30 p.m. Darkness had descended over the wintery earth, and it felt much later than that. Shannon's flight still claimed to be departing on time, so she braved the disgruntled crowds spewing their misery all over the airport, and shouldered her way through to the concourse where her flight should eventually be assigned a gate.
Not sure whether to believe that her plane would really leave, we hung around the area, eventually looking up a place to go out for dinner and kill some time. Finding the restaurant was an adventure in traversing poorly plowed roads. I'm not sure how Shawn did it, actually. Sometimes we couldn't tell where the road was, and once he had to bust through a snowbank. Finally, we got to a Lou Malnati's somewhere north of the airport and settled in for some deep-dish pizza.
Meanwhile, Shannon's flight was delayed from 8:30 to 10:30. While we slowly chewed and swallowed savory sausage, cheese and mushrooms in a cozy restaurant north of the fray, Shannon's gate attendants made announcements: "The plane has arrived!" and, "We now have a gate assignment!" and, "The pilot is here!" and, "We are just waiting for the crew to disembark from a different aircraft!"
It sounded like it was going to be a go, against all odds. We headed home, texting Shannon often as we looped southward around the airport. We passed the airport, continued down the beltway, and eventually merged onto 57 south toward home.
At 11:26 p.m. Shannon texted us that her flight was cancelled after all. She was rescheduled to a flight on Wednesday afternoon.
At 11:30 p.m. Shawn found an exit on 57 and turned around to go back up to O'Hare.
Meanwhile, David had been working on rescheduling his own flight. It looked like there was a 2 p.m. flight on Wednesday that he could take, that would coordinate nicely with Shannon's rescheduled flight. However, when he used his "smart"phone to try to get it, somehow the system automatically assigned him to a 2 p.m. flight on Tuesday. He tried repeatedly to change it, and to call in and talk to someone about changing it. He could not get through.
At 12:26 a.m. we arrived back at O'Hare and retrieved Shannon, and thus began the 2.5 hour drive home, which would be longer, because we couldn't go straight home, but had to deliver Jonathan to his apartment, for he had to work Tuesday morning. (Jon had joined us for the company and hoping for dinner at Lou's. He is the only one who got what he wanted that night.)
We fell into bed sometime between 3:30 and 3:45 a.m. We just dropped the suitcases in the entryway and fell into bed. I did brush my teeth. By some miracle, neither of the dogs had had an accident during the 11.5 hours we'd been gone. God is good.
The dogs woke up and needed attention Tuesday morning at 7:52 a.m. I tried to handle this quietly so Shawn could rest after his marathon drive. While the dogs ate, I brewed a large pot of strong coffee, just in case, but after walking the dogs, I passed up the coffee and slipped back into bed. However, David never did get through to his airline, so there was a tap at our bedroom door at about 8:45 a.m. We were back on the road to O'Hare by 9:37 a.m. David drove this time, and Shawn tried to do some work on his computer on the way. We pulled back into "departures" at O'Hare shortly after noon, and David set out for his own adventure in flying. He was technically standby, but he was able to get a seat and make it to Durham.
Shawn and I arrived back at our house by about 3:00 p.m. where I crashed for a quiet late afternoon with Shannon, who had kept the dogs company during the Tuesday airport excursion. Shawn worked at home in our study. He had also scheduled a Homeowners' Association Meeting for our neighborhood HOA, at our house, that evening at 7. Shannon and I hid antisocially in the family room and watched Chip and Joanna Gaines on "Fixer Upper."
After a decent night's rest, we were up and on the road to O'Hare again Wednesday morning, this time with Shannon. The good news: she was upgraded to a first class seat. So there is that. We took the dogs this time. They were good. It was a decent day. Shannon got home as smoothly as could be hoped. Additionally, here is a picture of when we dropped her off:
Do you know what time it was at that moment? It was 11:11 a.m. The fact that God worked out the detail of that picture being taken at 11:11 was a blessing, a mercy, a divine act of lovingkindness which helped me rest in Him and not fret about the travel situation for the rest of that day.
Today. Today I did not go to O'Hare. The house is quiet. Schubert is literally trembling at the changes in who is home and who is not, sensitive little animal that he is. It is quiet. Dark. Lonely. Cloudy.
It's been a cloudy, rainy Christmas season, and I don't mean just the weather. Actually, on Christmas day, we went for a walk in the park, and there was golden sunshine. It was rather fantastic. Christmas Eve was a pretty, blue-skied day as well.
There was a song this year, "A Different Kind of Christmas." It wasn't my favorite, but I think it was intended for people who have lost someone this year (to death, presumably). I keep thinking, though, that this year was a different kind of Christmas for us, so many different things. For one thing, it was the first Christmas we didn't spend with Laura. Shannon, David and Jonathan are all going through various issues and transitions as well, which cast lenses of many different colors over our festivities and traditions. Two years ago, Christmas 2013 was "different," in that we'd moved across the country, and I had surgery on 12/5 that year, and I'd done essentially no Christmas preparations. But this Christmas, Christmas 2015, was profoundly different, almost frighteningly different, sliding-off-the-edge-of-the-earth different. However, we are still here.
Christmas 2015 was a different kind of Christmas, and 2016 will be a different kind of year.
2015 was a year where I sought the Lord and clung to Him, where I depended on Him for peace. I craved His peace, and He came through.
I began the year with John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (niv)
Somewhere during the year, I transitioned over to Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (niv)
He's been speaking to me. He's been comforting me. I asked for peace, and He gave me peace, hope, joy and the Holy Spirit. He didn't give me all of the solutions and outcomes I wanted to see, but He gave me Himself. There is nothing better that He could give me, but I long to see Him give Himself to people I love, in the same way that He has given Himself to me.
This year, I want to ask for restoration. Restoration. His restoration.
Psalm 23:3 says that He restores my soul. I yearn to see Him restore my soul, and the souls of a number of others whom I love dearly. I desire the glory of His handiwork displayed, restoring joy to the sorrowful and rest to the weary. I want to see Him restore sight to the blind and truth to the deceived. I want to see the restoration of comfort to the hurting, community to the lonely, home to the homeless, and hope to the hopeless. I want to see the power of His loving hands at work in the world.
I see a shepherd lovingly following after a tattered and filthy lamb, injured yet stubbornly heading its own way. This gentle shepherd knows where the lamb is struggling; He knows in which thorny bushes it attempts to hide from His loving eyes. The cold and the rain and the snow will beat down on this vulnerable sheep, but the Shepherd will not leave it out in the wilderness alone. He is right there, in the storm, zealous to take the battered lamb into His arms and carry it home, to restore it to the fold where His sheep abide in safety while He Himself guards the gate.
The Lord is our shepherd. He provides all our needs. He restores our souls. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives as we dwell under His loving care.
Dear, merciful, kind Lord Jesus, please let 2016 be a year of restoration.
(this is a picture from back when we lived in New York, where the sky is usually white)