Life Awaits… Enjoy the Journey!
Be Strong and Courageous read my daily verse.
I took a deep breath and walked into my boss’ office with a folded letter in hand. I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I knew fear had caused me to make the wrong decision. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more notice. I’m leaving for Honolulu tomorrow.” I knew they’d ask me to leave. I wouldn’t get my last paycheck. I had to do it. I had to look out for the best interest of myself and my little one.
Their response hit me like a ton of bricks. I was stunned, frozen, relieved. “You have to do what’s best for you. We’ll make this easy for you. We love you, we thank you and we’ll see you in May.” They hugged me tight and tears ran down my cheeks. I did it. This was it. I was one step closer.
After a house full of people and three martinis, Crissi Montes and I packed my entire life in less than an hour. It was time. I’d be leaving for Honolulu in less than 12 hours.
I arrived at my final stop close to 11:00 pm that night, Mom’s. I was angry and frustrated. I had given away precious time I had set aside just for her. I finally learned how to appreciate her. I got her, I understood her now. And I let someone take this sweet time away from me. I watched as the woman in her came alive as she gratefully prepared lunches for her child and two grand-children. She liked to feel needed. No matter how much of her life Satan stole, she still had a heart to nurture and to love.
The next morning stress consumed me and I yelled at her. “Why did I even come here?” I thought. I knew how they’d affect me. Chaos and negativity would seep into my pores.
As we made our way to the airport, I imagined what Jesus must have felt; drained of all emotional and mental energy as he hung on the cross. Stress had won my battle. I began to dry heave reaching for the nearest bag. It had taken over. I felt like I had deep, open wounds down my back, lashes like Jesus. I could feel his arms stretched out, nailed to the cross with absolutely no physical energy left.
I needed my prayer warriors. Whatever God was doing, for months the enemy was surely trying to stop him.
We arrived at the airport and with tears again in my eyes and sorrow in my heart, I apologized, squeezed her tight and walked through the doors of the airport. The night planned for chatter, love and laughter never happened.
We checked our luggage and our blessing had arrived. I, my child and nephew had boarded the first flight to Honolulu. I thanked God. It was almost over. Peace and tranquility awaited me on a small island far away. A quiet condo in Waikiki whispered my name. I’d soon be sitting in front of a very large body of water allowing the mystery of the waves to refresh and renew me. It had been a very difficult year.
The doors to Delta flight 731 closed and I exhaled. The announcer came on the speaker and welcomed us. Then I heard, “Pope Family of 3, please come to the exit door.”
This is where my journey began.
The flight was over the weight restrictions and the last 8 standby passengers had to exit. Mail would need to be delivered before we were.
We walked to the service desk and checked our options beside a disgruntled passenger. A Delta representative standing by said, “Send them to LA. They’ll get out with no problem.” If it weren’t for what I’m about to share with you, I’d hate this woman.
A long plane ride and six hours later, the 3 of us stood in Los Angeles Airport, LAX, with one suitcase, a purse and two back packs. We waited for the next flight to Honolulu…and waited and waited some more. Nightfall approached and I mingled with the other unfortunate soul I had met earlier. We laughed. He was looking forward to enjoying a vacation with his girlfriend and 4 year old son. They just happened to already be in Honolulu and he was stuck, in LA, with me. After he treated us to dinner, we agreed to make the best of our situation. After all, we were in California! Sadly, he failed to keep his promise.
A short skip and a jump over a fence and we were at Walgreen’s. We’d need T-shirts and shorts for the swimming pool at the hotel he eagerly booked. I was happily along for the ride.
The kids were fed, safe, jumping in and out of the cool water. I enjoyed a nice soak as I floated in the jet filled jacuzzi. “Maybe we’ll just live here.” I shared with my little Cali-girl. It’d be a nice pit stop, refresher, before my final destination. A friend with an extra room was only a few hours north. It was her dream. Close enough to Georgia but still in the midst of the suntanned surfers and the laid back atmosphere. Best of all, my little girl would still be with me. It wasn’t so far that it frightened her. But, was it what God asked me to do?
You see, when her little 12 year old heart heard of our big move, it closed. How could she walk away from friends and a Daddy she just invested the last three years in? She’d known too much what saying goodbye meant and she was tired. She didn’t want to do it again. Could I force her into the same childhood as me, moving here and there? Was it fair to her? For nine years she knew what it felt like to live without a father. He was there now. She finally had her Daddy. How could she leave all of this behind? How could I leave without her? She was my gift, my joy, my strength. She was my entire life and it was my job to protect her.
With fear as my best friend, I kidnapped my own child and left Georgia, Honolulu bound.
6:30 am the next morning, the 3 of us and our bad tempered friend were headed back to LAX to attempt our departure once again. Little did we know eighty percent of the population of California would also be headed to Hawaii. At 9:00 am we learned that we were looking at another long day ahead. While packing in Georgia, I failed to prepare for the worse. I was stuck in California without a phone charger, laptop or a fresh change of clothes for the children. But we managed to make the best of our time and headed out the door.
Our new friend selflessly came out of pocket for bus fare. We walked along Venice Beach and appreciated many talented artists. The children’s eyes opened wide for the intriguing skate board park, smooth as glass but made with concrete and the fascinating little shops along the boardwalk. We walked, explored and walked a bit more. We hopped in the next available cab and headed to Santa Monica. Ferris wheels, souvenir stands and a million people surrounded us. The soothing sounds of a young violinist eased the tension of our unplanned adventure. We stuffed our faces and rushed back to the airport with our excessively intoxicated new friend to try again.
Through the security check, we watched and waited. We prayed our names would appear by an available seat. Disappointed, now Sunday evening, we made our way back to the service desk. All flights for the next few days were not only sold out but over booked.
I had spent all the time I could with our new loud, bad tempered, drunken friend; no matter how much dough he dropped. The kids needed food and I needed stillness, peace, silence. I needed to think. I had to talk to God. What was going on? Didn’t he tell me to go? To trust him and step out on faith? We quietly slipped away and disappeared into the night.
In the peaceful hotel room with the children fast asleep, I had a chat with the Almighty. ”This isn’t your plan is it? I was wrong to snatch her away like I did and for thinking he’d take her from me. I didn’t trust you, did I?”
The next morning we went straight to the Delta agent. With six more hours to explore before our next attempt to fly, we hurried to see Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe, George Lopez, Funny T-shirts and filming crews filled the streets. “Mom, can people climb up to the Hollywood sign?” asked Honesty. ”I don’t know.” I answered.
A short time later we rushed back to the airport with only minutes to spare. The hundredth time through security and they decide to give me a pat down; an innocent face in a long, green skirt. We made it to the terminal as the last passengers were loading. Honesty and Jaccob would board next. I wrapped my arms as tight as I could around my child as our strength held back our tears and she boarded the plane back to Atlanta.
An hour later, I had hit break-down mode when my hopeful heart was let down as I watched the flight leave for the islands without me. My child of 12 years was now gone and I was stuck in a strange city without luggage or a cell phone charger with close to no battery life left. I had to think and it had to be fast.
Back at the counter, the over booked plane tickets were selling for $1200.00. I called my Delta friend and the knot in my throat prevented me from speaking. I listened on the other end of the line without a clue as to what I would do next. He didn’t know either.
It was 3:00 pm on Monday and I had received news about a train heading north to a friends house just four hours later. I was exhausted and needed rest. I needed time to come up with a new plan. Never before being in a train station it definitely was a challenge. I felt creepy eyes on my back and stood in two different lines before finding my way to the ticket booth.
An hour away from LAX, I walked up to the window to purchase my way out. I had a plan. I would rest in peaceful California for a few days. I caught myself before hitting the floor when the service rep said, “Ma’am, those tickets are sold out.” I took a deep breath fighting back the overwhelming despair that was about to take over. My index finger came up as I tried to calm my emotions. “One moment please.” I said.
Earlier that day, I had the opportunity to take a ride through downtown Los Angeles. There must have been fifty beds made out of cardboard and blankets along one alley. Garbage covered the streets. Over loaded carts and resting bodies filled the central park. “How did they get here,” I thought. “What they must have been through.” Then I realized how they must be all alone. Someone forgot about them, someone stopped caring. Someone walked away. Depression or some other form of mental illness began to sink in and the battle became too strong for the fight of one person. These souls, loving just like you and me, gave up. Despair had set in. Abandonment crept in. They didn’t find soft eyes, gentle hands or encouraging words. All they had was what Satan filled their heads with. They didn’t know how to overcome. They didn’t know how to conquer, how to win. They gave up on life.
I pulled my little pink suitcase behind me and headed for the serene courtyard as the weight of the overstuffed backpack cut into my shoulders. My ankles were swollen from the thin cushioned, non-supportive flip flops. I could feel the bones in my feet rub together as I walked. Piercing pain shot through the soles of my feet, up through my knees with every step.
In a distance I could see a small fountain. I needed the rush of the flowing water. I needed its refreshing power, its energy. I took a seat on the colorfully painted tiles that surrounded it and my tears began to surface. I took another deep breath and looked down into the water. I watched the large koi fish. They were strong and fed. They swam in their little pond without a care in the world.
My head went down and rested on my suitcase. My phone was two seconds away from going completely dead and I had no one. No friend to call, no hero, no parent to come to my rescue, only myself. “God, please show up. What are you doing?” I prayed. I couldn’t hold back the overwhelming emotion any longer. I hurried to the ladies room hiding my panic and locked myself in a stall. I sat down and let the tears fall. I was homeless.
I waited on a response from my friend with the fear of someone calling or texting unexpectedly and killing my battery. The responsibility of making sure my child was being safely picked up from the Atlanta airport weighed heavily in my thoughts. I couldn’t use my battery. I had to trust.
Soon the text came. I was instructed to take the next train to Ventura, California; to my friend’s sister’s home. I purchased the ticket and found the bar. That night I was given two heroes. One was a very kind bartender with the perfect phone charger and two perfect dirty martinis. Needless to say, he earned a very generous tip.
Around 9:00 pm, after a long train ride, I was picked up by an angel. My lips had started to crack from dehydration and the bright lights on the train provided absolutely no chance of rest. You can imagine my grateful heart when she offered an ice cold bottle of water.
I felt like the disciples long ago, like Peter or Paul. Earlier this year I realized a deep desire to become a missionary. This was it, my dream to travel near and far ministering without knowledge of where my next meal or bed would come from.
Exhaustion had caught up with me. We arrived at her home and I exhaled as I sippied a soothing cup of hot tea. I didn’t waste any time and curled up in a soft, warm bed made just for me.
I was up early the next morning, sifting and solving my dilemma. I had a place to be and had to find a way to get there. I was greeted by a gentle smile and a warm cup of jump start also known as coffee. I smiled as I thought about her struggles.
I had heard about the losses this small, tender woman had recently faced. My heart had felt her pain. How could I bring her comfort? I imagined what it must have felt like to lose a child after 30 years of caring for her. How could you let go? A divorced, single woman of 11 long years. She had just lost her best friend too. A lifelong companion, her joy, her comfort, her dog. She needed love; someone to wrap their arms around her and never let go. I connected with her sorrows.
And out of my mouth came a few words from God. “I cry a lot. I love very deeply and the pain from a broken heart rightfully outweighs any joy that was ever felt. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do that again.” I shared. “You’re still young.” She said. I told her about a recent night spent with God. He wanted me to leave my child behind as he called me to a new place. “What are you doing!?” I cried out. “You know I’m not strong enough.” And God answered me and said, “I know. But I am.”
Seconds later my one way ticket to Honolulu, Hawaii was confirmed. We routed my journey and I was soon headed north with a free meal in hand. I shared a few other stories with her lovely roommate, a little prayer and boarded another train to Santa Barbara, California.
It’s funny how God gives us the desires of our hearts, as he promised, when we least expect it. For as long as I can remember, I’d always wanted to see what a train ride was like. I even tried to find the time to take one but from my hands, it wasn’t happening. I sat beside the window and slowly exhaled.
The beauty of the California coast was breath taking as was the train attendant. I curiously made my way to the café just to say I’d been there and walked back to my seat where I enjoyed every sweet moment of the view. An hour later I was transferred to a cozy and comfortable bus for 8 pleasant hours of peaceful California. I had just received another gift. The bus made its way through the California mountains and the vineyards I’ve dreamed of. I was living one of my favorite movies.
We arrived at our unfamiliar destination a little late in the evening and the foreign taxi drivers frightened me. A soft and gentle aspiring attorney offered to share his cab. We shared our love and hate for our over analytical minds and our desires to provide legal help for the unfortunate. He was close to 200,000 in debt because of this dream. It was just money to him. He had something bigger to focus on. He shared how he also began writing after a broken heart. It had opened us as a friend had taught me. We smiled, shook hands and parted ways.
I arrived at my hotel room a little past 10:00 pm. I dropped the suitcases and backpacks and headed straight for the whirlpool bathtub. After another cup of soothing hot tea, a steamy bath and a good read, I tucked myself away in the extra large and crisp bed.
8:00 am came early the next morning, now Wednesday. I grabbed a banana and met my 3rd friend from India of the Sikh faith. We shared our differences in respect and with curiosity. We appreciated our common beliefs where love is the ultimate foundation. One world, one love. We shared things most close to our hearts. Best of all we shared love and he dropped me off at the San Jose Airport for one last long day of travel.
After a short flight, I was back in Los Angeles. I walked outside the Los Angeles Airport for the last time. I pulled out a sandwich and water and sat peacefully beside the busy roads waiting on my flight to Honolulu. I recalled a verse God shared with me not long ago. He said, “You can’t see my plans for you but soon you will understand.” Love and peace filled my heart as a bus passed by with the words, DIVINE TRANSPORTATION written on the side. I smiled.
A week later I’m sitting in the breezy outdoors of the spiritually protected Honolulu, YMCA just blocks away from the famous Waikiki beach. I have a new home on a woman’s only floor with free gym access, aerobic classes and a much desired tae kwon do class waiting for my arrival. I live the life of another dream, the life of a nun.
I’ve met a new best bud that lets me drive his amazing Lexus and a handful of sweet, loving, kindred spirited girls that I enjoy spending my time with. I’ve met with the church where I will serve and have been asked to head up a new homeless ministry.
I’ve also met a very spiritual yoga instructor that will teach me great things. And a very wise 74 year old christian man that said, “April, we’ve waited a very long 5 years for you,” that I will be learning taxes from and starting a few non-profits with.
My daughter is in the great hands of the Almighty and I am at great peace.
My new journey has just begun.
If we’re not learning, we’re not growing. I’d like to share a few lessons I learned along the way.
I learned that when we follow Christ, we have to be ready for an adventure. We must always remember that it is he who is in charge. The only thing we have to do is follow.
I learned that what we may perceive as a blessing may just be another lesson. Learn from it (or them) and let it (or them) go. A recent favorite quote spoken in the 2010 Karate Kid said, “We can no longer be friends. You are bad for my life.”
I learned not to count my blessings until I’ve received them. I believe to have expectations is to set ourselves up for failure. If we don’t expect, it is easier to remain humble and grateful when the unexpected happens.
I learned that we should always walk in gratitude and in love and keep our eyes open. We shouldn’t be so quick to think God has forgotten us.
I learned to always look my best for we never know who we’ll meet.
We must fight the good fight. I learned that in order to get where we are going, we must be persistent. Today, I will take my first step toward my law degree and it will be perseverance that gets me through.
And lastly, I learned to always look for opportunities to laugh and to make someone else laugh. Life’s hard and we’re all in it together.
God said, “There are blessings and curses laid out before you. Choose wisely.”
Until next time…Life awaits, ENJOY THE JOURNEY!