He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's the lesson?

Do you ever go through a season, or even just a series of events where you think, "ok, there is probably a major life lesson hidden in here somewhere if I can just focus enough to wrap my brain around it"?  That theme pretty much defined my existence for the month of May.  If it was not one thing, it was another.  Little things mostly.  But annoying things.  Things that eat away at my stress level, not to mention my time.  But also things that when I start whining about them (inwardly of course), I realize how truly insignificant they actually are in the grand scheme of things.  Things that when I look at the struggles of others around me- big, truly heartbreaking struggles- the loss of a child, the loss of a home, war torn nations.  Well, my petty complaints truly pale in comparison.  But in the moment, in the midst of the frustration, these petty little things can really do a number on my frame of mind!  

So I have to pause and ask myself, "What is the lesson here, Lord?  What are you trying to teach me?"  And honestly, most of the time I'm thinking, "enough already, I get it!"  (whatever IT is).  

I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what defined my crazy for the first few weeks of May and maybe you can help me figure out the life lessons involved...

I was really looking forward to May, especially after the craziness of moving during April.   I was going with Jason on a mostly business trip to Morocco- my FIRST time to Africa, which is crazy in itself since I've been literally dreaming of going there since I was 6.  Anyway, even though the trip was going to be mostly business it would involve spending time with dear friends and a little bit of R&R simply because we would be staying in a resort type place, meaning I wouldn't be cleaning or cooking for a week.  So hey, even if meetings are involved that in itself is enough to make it somewhat relaxing.     I even gave myself a manicure before I left which I NEVER do since it never lasts more than half a day- one load of dishes and it's peeling off.   Anyway, all that to say, May was something I'd been lookign forward to for a while.  And added bonus, Aunt AJ (Jason's youngest sister) was flying all the way across the ocean to stay with the girls.  So leaving the girls behind was not going to be at all stressful because they were super excited about time with AJ.  

So, first thing.  In the process of beginning to pack for our trip, I realized that almost all of my earrings and several pretty precious pieces of jewelry were missing.   I had inventoried and organized all of my jewelry right before the move, but in the process of moving, I had left my jewelry in my top dresser drawer (where it stays), intending to move it myself.  On the craziness of moving day, I completely forgot and all I can figure is that when the movers (or hired guys off the street) moved that particular piece of furniture, they opened that top drawer and helped themselves.  Completely my fault for leaving it but frustrating nonetheless.  I'm particularly mourning my sapphire and diamond ring that Jason bought me for Christmas when Maddie was a baby and my grandmother's pearl ring.  Also frustrating is the fact that the jewelry was obviously scooped up in a hurry and they only got away with 1 of most of my most favorite earrings.  So the lone earrings are left behind reminding me of how much I love them and miss them!  I know.  Totally superficial and it's just stuff.  But it was my stuff.  And I happen to kind of have a thing for jewelry.   

So that was annoying and frustrating.  But, in the long run, it's just stuff, right?

So May 1 arrives.  AJ has come and gotten settled into our family routine.  I've fully stocked the fridge and freezer so they don't have to worry with meals while we travel.  I've arranged transportation to various activities and friends to check in on them,  and Jason and I head off to the airport. 

 Funny side note that you will soon see the relevance of- in the process of packing, Jason asked me if I wanted to pack together in a certain not so large suitcase.   Pretty sure I looked at him like he'd grown a second head.   Why in the world would I want to have to stress about how much I was going to be able to pack when for the first time in a long time, I am only packing for myself and not 4 other little people.  No thanks I said.  I'm likely packing everything I own :).   For one, I"m not totally sure what type of clothes I'll be wearing, plus I'm only packing for me so I don't have to worry about space.  Whoo hooo!  


 So I proceeded to pack essentially my entire spring and summer wardrobe, all of the jewelry I had left, all of my shoes  (and by the way, I like shoes.  I may or not have had almost an entire bag of shoes packed when Jason came and picked up the bags I had packed for our honeymoon oh so many years ago- that should have been an introduction for him to my (ahem) somewhat challenged self when it comes to packing light....).  And yeah, I am also not so good at the whole 'put a change of clothes in your carry on' thing...   There might have been in a time when I wore Jason's clothes on a trip because a certain toddler threw up all over me mid-flight and I didn't have a change of clothes in my carry on.  I've gotten a lot better, especially when we travel with the girls.  However, this particular trip, I packed in a hurry.  I did not pre-plan.  I actually put things in my suitcase that I know better than to put in a checked bag simply because I was in a hurry and I've never actually lost a bag.  So there.  Can you see where this is going?   

So off we go to the airport.  

Jason and I actually had a slightly different itinerary because he was traveling a bit more after the Morocco trip.  I was with friends though.  Off we went to Agadir, Morocco.  By way of Istanbul, then Casablanca and finally on to Agadir almost 12 hours later.  We all arrived safe and sound.  Sadly, my bag did not.  We went through the motions of filling out the appropriate claim forms for a missing bag at the airport in Morocco and headed out to our hotel- about a 30 minute drive from the airport.   

I was grumpy.  And can I just tell you that is kind of a major understatement.  

I had no make-up (always put that in my carry on- not this time!), I had no jewelry, I had no clothes or extra clothes of ANY form, I had no contact solution, I had no glasses etc etc.  

So, with the understanding that the airline would be calling me (hopefully the next day) when my bag arrived from Casablanca (in my head, it made the most sense that it had been delayed there since we only had a 50 minute layover), we began a week of meetings.  I didn't want to go buy a bunch of stuff since I had so much in my bag which would surely be showing up soon.  Unfortunately when I contacted the airlines the airlines the next day, I was eseentially told that they had absolutely no idea where my bag was and were attempting to track it down.  Great.

In this whole process I learned more about the airline luggage "system" (and believe me I use that word, VERY loosely) than I ever wanted to know.  After learning about this system (or lack thereof), I can fully understand why there are 100s and 1000s of missing bags out there.  I should know.  I was in the lost baggage storerooms at 4 different airports over the course of the next week.   

Finally after 3 days I was told that my bag had been found in Istanbul and was due to be sent that evening- hooray!  See, it was a good thing after all that I hadn't run out and bought a bunch of stuff that I really didn't want.  Thanks to generous friends who also apparently overpacked, I had several outfits to select from each day.  One friend even had a bag full of Mary Kay samples that she let me use.  

The next 4 days were a blur of meetings, going back and forth to the airport tracking my bag that had supposedly arrived in Casablanca, and each day was due to be sent on to Agadir, numerous phone calls to various airlines who were somehow involved in the whole process.  There was Royal Air Maroc with whom the claim was filed since they were my final carrier.  They mostly spoke French and were the ones who told me "ma'am, perhaps you should check at your home in Jordan"  Dude.  I'm pretty sure I would remember if I had LEFT MY SUITCASE AT HOME YOU COMPLETE MORON (ahem) nice man who is attempting to help me.  

They there was Royal Jordanian, the original carrier that I flew on to Istanbul.  They claimed no involvement and no responsibility at all since I filed the claim with Air Maroc.  (didn't seem to matter that they were the ones who didn't get the bag on the flight in Istanbul to begin with).  They recieved a nasty email which I'm sure did worlds of good.

And finally, Turkish Air.  And no, I did not fly Turkish Air.  However somehow they got involved when the bag was left in Istanbul.  I will tell you about some of my lovely conversations with them in a minute.  

Let me just pause here and say that the bag never arrived in Agadir.  On my last day and final trip to the airport, the told me that the bag was due to arrive from Casablanca that night at midnight and I could just get it that morning when I checked in for my 6 AM flight and re-check it(I'm thinking I might actually attach it to my wrist, thank you very much).  If for some reason, it did not arrive, I could just check in as far as Casablanca, go out through customs and go to the baggage area and retrieve it there.  Lovely.  Sounds like the way I want to spend my layover.   And can I say that I had I known at the beginning of the week that my bag was NOT going to arrive, I would have settled in to my friends clothes, bought a few things and that would have been that.  It was the back and forth to the airport, the your bag is coming, Ha! just kidding, your bag is in Istanbul, oops no, your bag is in Casablanca.  Yeah, that was tiring.   

So on the day we returned from Agadir to Amman (by way of Casablanca and Istanbul), of course my bag was NOT there that morning.  I went through customs in Casablanca to pick it up, nope not there either.  They tracked it on their computer and said it had been sent from Istanbul back to Amman on May 5.  Hmmm.  I DON"T BELIEVE YOU!!!!   Interesting that on May 7 they told me it was sent to Casa and now here it is May 8 and it's back on Amman on May 5.  You confused?  I was!  And so tired!  So exhausted!  

Anyway, I did the same thing in Istanbul.  Had to buy a Turkish tourist visa, check out through passport control and go down into the baggage claim area.  (thankfully we had about a 4.5 hour layover).  That is where I encountered a lovely lady with Turkish Airlines who  confirmed that my bag had been scheduled to go from Istanbul to Amman on May 5 but it apparently did not get loaded onto the plane for whatever reason.  She then proceeded to explain to me about the "room of the chutes".   

"Ma'am,"  she says. "There is a big room with 3 giant chutes.  All of the bags go down the big chutes before they are put on the planes.  Sometimes they do not get put on the plane and they stay in the room of the chutes.  I think maybe your bag is in the room of the chutes."   

She then goes on to tell me that I can't go to the "room of the chutes" to look for the bag because I don't have an ID badge.  When I asked if she could go and look she explained that no she could not because the room is too big and it would take too much time.  

After spending another 2 hours with a guy in baggage claim trying to find the bag, he finally determined that there must have been a gliche in the system and that the bag was in fact put on the plane to Amman (on May 5) and would surely be waiting for me when I arrived later that night.  

It was not.

Fast forward 6 more days.  After numerous more frustrating conversations with airlines and baggage handlers and customer service representatives, I was oh so very close to giving up.  (however in the course of these conversations, they supposedly found the bag again in Casablanca and it was sent on to Agadir and then back on it's way to Amman.  Yeah, never happened).  However, that's why I didn't give up.  They kept giving me hope that they'd come up with the bag.  Despite the fact that it wasn't true at all, it was still hope.  So maybe the lesson is something about hope?

After another trip back out to the Amman airport to pick up the bag that had supposedly arrived and it had not, I made one last attempt at calling the Turkish Airlines baggage handlers again.  I was fairly certain that since my bag had been positively identified in Istanbul, that it was likely still there (in the room of the chutes!!).  Miraculously, I got the same little guy on the phone who had helped me for almost 2 hours the week before.  He gave me an email address, told me to email him personally with an exact description of the bag along with a thorough description of its contents and he would go himself down to the tag less luggage warehouse and see if he could identify it.   

I got an email back within 10 minutes that he found my bag and was sending it on to Amman that night.  

And miracle of miracles, he did!  AND all my jewelry, electronics, clothes etc were completely intact.  Not a thing was missing.  
Thank you Jesus!!!   (I love that there is a tag on it that says RUSH)   

In the midst of this lovely life lesson that I've decided must have something to do with my vanity and desire to have pretty clothes and jewelry and make-up (and shoes), I also got 2 mega sized mouth ulcers that made it pretty difficult to eat.  I also got a nasty infection in one of my eyes so I couldn't wear my contacts (and my only pair of glasses was in the missing bag!).   I've been wearing glasses since age 8 and can't see a foot in front of me without them so there was very little of any use I could do for the 36 hours that I was blind!  I can promise you that it was not a very pleasant week in our household.    Definitely not the relaxing, refreshing few weeks that I had planned on!  

And I confess that in all of the craziness, I kept asking , "Lord, WHAT is the lesson?  I am listening!!  And whatever it is, I've learned it so please just give me back my stuff!"  (ok maybe lesson NOT learned).  

I did learn that sometimes that streak of stubbornness that I get made fun of for, pays of every so often.  I was NOT giving up on the bag and I was NOT going to let people get away with claiming "no responsibility".  So maybe the lesson is about perseverance in the midst of hope?  Regardless, so thankful that with a little perseverance, I found a friend in the bowels of the Istanbul airport willing to go beyond his "job" and help me out- thank you Ozgur!  

(and for those of you thinking, good grief- just go buy new clothes...  remember where I live and take my word for it- not that easy!!) 

So what lesson do you see for me here?  Maybe you've read something between the lines that I missed?

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12 

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