It was Thursday, August 14th, 2014, and Barry, Shelley, Libby, and I boarded our first of three flights that would take us to Africa. That first flight was from Amarillo to Houston. We would have a small layover there before flying to Washington D. C. to stay the night. The next morning would be the long, long, long flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
My seat is 1A. I am in the first row, and there is only one seat in my row. I have a strange view of the cockpit. Too bad they have to shut the doors during the flight. That would have been interesting.
There were so many things to wonder and think over on a flight that was beginning a journey to Ethiopia to serve at orphanages. I had brought my Amharic flashcards for last minute study. I had endless amounts of music on my iPod. I had my Bible of coarse. There was no end to the questions I had about our trip. I had no idea what to expect.
But the thing I couldn't quit thinking about was the last time I had flown from Amarillo to Houston.
That day was July 21, 2010.
Early that morning, I had gotten a phone call that changed my life forever.
Phones ringing in the middle of the night was a common occurrence that summer. Citychurch had just contracted with Allstate for security of the building downtown. James and I were both on the call list. Anytime someone came in early and set the alarm off (which happened so often, I can't count) or a homeless person was acting unusual around our building, our phones would ring. First James's phone would ring and go to voicemail, then my phone would ring and go to voicemail, as we tried to sleep knowing someone else would answer and handle the non-emergency.
That morning, my phone rang first, then James's phone rang. I was jarred awake with the thought - that is not Allstate calling. James answered.
My sleepy brain began to swim through likely scenarios. It landed on one. My aunt Edna's heart surgery. Was that it? My dad had told me she was recovering well before I went to sleep that night.
I could tell it was serious by James's groggy tone. He hands me the phone saying, "It's your dad." His news is unbelievable. My brain will not let it sink in.
Jeffrey is dead. My little brother has shot himself.
My dad's despair and heartbreak is flooding through the phone into my ear, but my brain builds a fortress. I am in shock.
I do such random things that morning. Pack my bag. I have to be there for my parents. How many diapers can I fit in this suitcase for my 2 month old Gabe? I have to take care of my parents. I have to take care of this baby. I cook breakfast. I never do that, but I feel such a need to make muffins. I watch the news. Something else I never do. James buys me a plane ticket. I look at Jeffrey's FaceBook page. What was he thinking? Is he really gone? He was only 24.
The thing I do not do is cry. My fortress is up. My belief that this is real is still nonexistent.
James takes me to the airport. Gabe and I get on the plane.
As the plane takes off, the only thought remember thinking is, this plane cannot crash. My parents cannot lose two children in one day.
I have to take care of my parents. I have to take care of this baby.
I get off the plane. I get go to get my bags. There is my mom, my dad, and their pastor. It is true. This is really happening.
We ride in the pastor's car to my parent's house. It is an hour long drive. When we pull into the driveway, extended family members are waiting. They have driven from Ft. Worth to be supportive during this tragedy. As I hug my cousin, Kathy, and the tears finally come. She is here for me. She's here to help and support me. I can let go of the armor. I let the fortress fall.
These are the memories that roll through my mind as I fly on my mission trip to Ethiopia last August. But it wasn't all sad. I had such a gratitude, a deep thanksgiving to God, that I was flying this flight from Amarillo to Houston to do His work, flying for a good reason.
I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the life He has given me. As we fly, I hide my tears of loss and thanksgiving. I was thankful to be sitting alone in my row of one.
It was healing.
I wondered on that flight why God would start that trip out with such an emotional reminder of that day of loss and brokenness I experienced in the wake of suicide. But it was really a silly question. Why wouldn't God want to start me in a place of weakness and sensitivity to His Spirit and remind me of my trust in Him? Why wouldn't God want me to remember my loss before I went and held children who were marked with loss, marked as orphans?
God used my willingness to serve Him to heal my wounds. This wasn't the first time that serving the Lord would serve me, and it won't be the last. God has used my ministry to repair my heart over the last four years and refocus my humanity and compassion to serve others. And in serving others, God ministers to me.
If you have scars and wounds, pray about serving God in some way. Ask Him what you can do for others. You may still have a fortress around those scars and bruises, but God has the remedy for healing.
Worship God with me.
Can we also praise The Lord for xylophones? They are marvelous.