Angels In Atlanta

My mother had warned me about booking a flight that had a layover in Atlanta, she had had a bad experience there. But it was the only choice I had really, in booking a flight my pocketbook could afford.

It was a beautiful summer day in Portland, Maine as my daughter and I sat in the terminal awaiting my boarding time. We sat at one of those little snack shops with tables outside, and we watched the people – a favorite pastime for both of us.

Our chit chat was interrupted by the announcement, “preparing to board flight 4721 to Atlanta.” We got up and hugged each other really tight, not knowing how long it would be until we’d see each other again.

No sooner had we taxied to the runway, the captain announced on the intercom, “ladies and gentlemen, there’s a delay in traffic headed over New York, but don’t worry, this isn’t unusual and many times these things clear up within a short time. It could be as short as five minutes, but it could be up to an hour. We’ll let you know anything we find out.”

So we sat on the runway, for what turned out to be a half hour. Originally, I had a fifty-minute layover in Atlanta, but now that was pared down to twenty minutes in which to make my next flight going to San Diego. But I’ve flown a lot, and I remembered that another time we were delayed on the runway, but the pilot was able to make up the lost time during the flight. So I reassured myself that the lost time would be made up, and sat back and commanded myself to relax and enjoy the flight.

Many years ago, when I found myself frequently traveling alone across the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, the Lord gave me a promise and wonderfully confirmed it to me, “you are blessed in your goings out, and blessed in your comings in.” When the Lord speaks to us, he will always confirm the message so that we will know it really is from him. Having received that word from the Lord, along with a very real confirmation of it, and then someone later handed me a key chain with those very words on it, that sealed it in my heart and from then on I always had peace while flying great distances, knowing I was covered by the blessing of the Lord.

These thoughts came back to me as I sat in that plane on the runway in Portland. I knew that I was accompanied by the Lord’s blessing and that if I was delayed, there was a specific reason for it and that it would work out for the good.

Well, the pilot didn’t make up the lost time and by the time I got off the plane in Atlanta and made my way to the next gate, my connection had already left. It was after ten o’clock at night and I had no idea what to do. The situation was further complicated – I was traveling to California to be with my mother who had fallen and was hospitalized with a broken bone in her back. My sister would be picking me up at the airport in San Diego, and I knew she wouldn’t go home to check for telephone messages, but would just go to the airport directly from the hospital, because returning home first would have put her well out of her way. Telephone message? I didn’t even have a cell phone, how could I reach my sister to tell her not to head out on the long drive to the airport?

As I arrived at the service desk in Atlanta, I found myself in a crowd of hundreds of people who also had been delayed and missed their connections. I later found out that all air traffic over New York had been suspended for awhile that afternoon, so that meant that anyone flying south over New York was going to be late. When I saw the hundreds and hundreds of people gathered at the service desk, my heart sank. It was a very long wait in line, and when I finally got to the desk it was after midnight. I was distraught. I blurted out in no genteel manner that my mother is lying in a hospital bed and I’m on my way to be with her, and my sister is going to be going to the airport in San Diego to pick me up, and I HAVE to get there tonight!

But of course, that was impossible. I wasn’t much comforted when they told me they’d put me up in a hotel and get me out first thing in the morning. “But how am I going to let my sister know?” I asked in exasperation. There was a woman standing beside me, in the very same circumstances I was in, and she offered to let me use her cell phone. What a relief! I remembered that I had my sister’s cell phone number with me, I dug it out and called her, hoping she’d be able to receive the call within the hospital walls. There was no answer. So I called her house and left a message on her answering machine, my heart now in a fit of exasperation. Something nudged me to try her cell phone again, and finally I reached her and blurted out to her that I wouldn’t be coming in tonight and how relieved I am to be able to get hold of her to tell her that. I told her I’d be in touch with her the next day as soon as I find out the details of my next flight.

I wasn’t calmed down, though. The frustration of the delay, the long wait in line way past midnight, and the difficulty reaching my sister had just about done me in. It was late, I was tired, and I wasn’t a good example of a daughter of the Lord at that point. In contrast, was the woman who had let me use her cell phone. She was delayed too and obviously missed her connection as well, it was late for her also, but she was so calm and peaceful that I kept watching her throughout this story with a deep-down feeling that her demeanor was incredibly odd at a time like this. How could anyone in our condition be so calm? It turned out that they gave her a hotel voucher to the same hotel I was being sent to, so she invited me to go along with her to catch the shuttle to the hotel. Invited me? At that point I would have held on to her coat to make sure wherever she goes I was going too.

We walked and walked, she oddly seemed to know the way, no detours or mistakes, just straight to the shuttle parking area. It reminded me of the plane terminal in Portland, Maine, a long wide cement sidewalk with spaces for the various shuttles to park and pick up people headed for the various hotels in Atlanta. There were no assigned parking places, each incoming shuttle bus just took the first empty space available. We tried to get to the edge of the walkway, but it was almost impossible because there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other people in the same circumstances doing the same thing. We snaked our way to the very end where the busses rounded the corner and waited. After an incredibly long wait, finally we saw the shuttle with the name of our hotel on it come around the corner. Wouldn’t you know, the first empty parking space was down the other end. So we pushed and shoved our way to the shuttle, only for the driver to close the door just as I put my foot onto the bottom step. “Filled up,” he said. I wanted to cry – and was on the verge of tears when the woman with me said, “come on, we’ll take a taxi.”

“A taxi?” I cried, “look at all the people here, the taxi driver will take advantage of us and charge an enormous rate to get us to the hotel.”

“We’re taking a taxi,” she replied in a calmness that gave me goose bumps all up and down my spine. Somewhere on the subconscious level I knew this lady’s calmness was more than what would be humanly possible under circumstances like this, but I was so tired and so frustrated that I just followed her, protesting all the way.

Finally we came to some taxis, got into one, and as we rode mile after mile my heart sank as I contemplated what the fee for this was going to be. We arrived at the hotel and the woman paid the driver. I asked her what the charge was so that I could give her my share. “It wasn’t much,” she said, “he didn’t take advantage of us.” As we walked into the hotel I was pouring through my purse for cash to give to her and she said rather authoritatively, “don’t worry about it, I’ve paid for both of us,” and she would not take a cent. I usually would have insisted, but I was just too tired to argue.

The hotel lobby was just as crowded as the shuttle area had been. Finally we got to the desk and handed the clerk our vouchers. “Oh, we’re not taking any more vouchers,” she said, “we’re filled up.”

I was too tired to cry. I just stood there stunned. It was after one in the morning and here we were stranded at a hotel a few miles from the airport.

“What are we supposed to do?” I blurted out to the hotel clerk.

“Go back to the airport,” she said.

I felt the blood draining from my head. The thought of spending the night on the floor in the airport just overwhelmed me.

Then suddenly two young women approached us, maybe in their early twenties, who overheard our conversation and they said to us, “here, we have two rooms but we only need one, really. Take the key to our second room, there are two beds in ours so it really won’t be an imposition.” ! ! !

Now that I look back on the story, it boggles my mind that while I was standing helpless in the lobby of the hotel that was turning us away at later than one in the morning, there were two persons standing near us who just handed over the key to their second room and would receive no payment for it. I mean — that just doesn’t happen! When I think of what the Lord had to put together in order to provide for me that night, each factor having to happen exactly on time while I was in the midst of hundreds of people, all I can say is that this story and many others like it over the years has left me with no possible doubt that the Lord is FAITHFUL to his promises. He had promised me years back that his blessing was upon me as I traveled, my travels always having been at his direction and for his purposes. It’s when we’re at our wit’s end that the Lord rises up and demonstrates in obvious and undeniable ways his faithfulness. He had given me his word. And now he was making good on it.

The woman I had been with from service desk took the key from the young woman’s hand and I followed her up to the room. During this entire venture, she continued willfully and without hesitation, as though she was familiar with the whole airport layout, the shuttle layout, and the hotel layout. She never hesitated, and I just followed her every purposeful step.

When we arrived at the room, she told me that her next flight in the morning would be leaving before mine, and reminded me to return the key to the desk in the lobby. Then, she said as she looked out the window toward the McDonald’s golden arches, she was going out to get something to eat. — umm, going out to eat at 2:00 in the morning after an ordeal such as we had just come through??? I collapsed on the bed and never saw her again. I vaguely remember her speaking to me in the morning, saying “I’m leaving now. Don’t forget to return the key to the desk. “

In the morning, I was shuttled back to the airport and was on my way to San Diego. I was to stay there helping my sister care for our mother. And the Lord put the icing on the cake. After her initial difficulties, our mother was HEALED. This is the honest truth. Her doctor told us that she hadn’t expected her to survive the fall she took, and was just shocked when we went back for her monthly checkup. She said that our mother was “a walking miracle.” I asked if she was just using that expression to convey her amazement at our mother’s unexpected recovery and she said that no, she meant exactly what she said – our mother had obviously been supernaturally healed.

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