Sunday, September 08, 2013

Experiencing God's Tender Mercy

There are certain stories that highlight God's tender mercies that you just don't want forget. One of those stories happened about a month ago, and getting it recorded has been on my mind ever since. It's even enough to make me break my six-month blogging drought.

At the beginning of August, I was slated to present at a conference in Orlando. When discussing the trip with Deidra, we decided that, instead of her staying home with the kids while I was gone, it was a good opportunity for her and the kids to visit family in Idaho early, since we were planning to be there the following week for her class reunion anyway. I would fly in to Idaho from Orlando to join her after the conference ended. So we booked flights leaving Indianapolis the same day, with Deidra and the kids flying out a few hours before me. The one thing we wondered in the back of our minds was how Deidra would handle the flight alone with a two-year-old, a five-month-old, and all of the carry-on luggage (including a car seat and double stroller). And just to up the difficulty level, she also purchased another stroller for one of her sisters off of Craigslist here and had to take it home.

We packed up the night before our flight and headed to a hotel in Indianapolis. That night and the following morning, we prayed that the trip for Deidra and the kids would somehow work out smoothly. Leaving the car at the hotel, we boarded a shuttle to the airport early in the morning. We had four suitcases, two strollers, one car seat, one diaper bag, Millie's roller backpack, and both kids in tow. We somehow managed to get it all in the airport, and I quickly took two bags to the Southwest terminal and checked them both when I checked in for my flight to Orlando. (Getting two free checked bags on Southwest meant that I took could take an extra bag with me that included things nobody would need until I was able to meet up with the family.)

The next stop was the Delta ticket counter to check Deidra and the kids in for their flight. We were hoping that, with our Delta American Express cards, Deidra and Millie would each be able to check a bag for free. No such luck. Since I was not traveling on the flight with them (and since I am the primary cardholder), they wouldn't let us do it, even though Deidra also has a card under the same account. So we chose not to pay extra, hoping that they could check them at the gate.

A little frustrated, we forged on to security with Deidra carrying the diaper bag while pushing Truman in his car seat in one stroller, Millie somewhat haphazardly pulling her roller backpack (part of the way), and me carrying two pieces of luggage with a double umbrella stroller slung over my back.

After weaving through the long line of passengers while trying to keep Millie entertained and corralled, we made it through security without incident. (One good thing about the hotel's airport shuttle was that it got us to the airport way early, so we weren't also stressed about whether we would make our flights.) Hot and frazzled, we made it to the gate where Deidra and the kid were flying out, and unloaded our heavy burdens. Deidra talked to the Delta agents at the ticket counters who, after seeing that the flight was full and that overhead bin space would likely be at a premium, allowed Deidra to check the two pieces of luggage at the gate and pick them up at baggage claim. (That was Deidra's argument with the woman at the check-in desk, to no avail.)

Since I would not be boarding the flight, that left Deidra with both kids (one of whom she would be required to carry), a diaper bag, Millie's backpack, two strollers and a car seat (the last three items would be gate checked, but she still had to make it down the jetway with them). We knew she could handle it, but also knew that it could be quite difficult, and nearly impossible if Millie decided not to cooperate. Not to mention that Deidra then had to manage both kids throughout the nearly four-hour flight.

As we thought about how to most effectively tackle the challenge, with another prayer in our hearts that somehow everything would work out, I recognized a man approaching the gate with his wife as Ron Ellis, our Stake President. Since we attend church in a different building than President Ellis, and we have only interacted with him on a few occasions, I doubted as if he would recognize us. But if he and Meg, his wife, were on the same flight as Deidra, I knew they would be willing to help out.

I was just getting ready to go introduce myself to him and explain our situation when I looked up and saw him approaching us with his signature smile. Turns out he did recognize us, and he came to say hello. He joked that it looked like we had our hands full. When we explained that I wasn't flying with the rest of the family, his response was something along the lines of: "My wife and I love being able to assist in these kinds of situations. Just let us know how we can help. We'll take care of them."

As Deidra boarded the plane carrying Truman and a folded umbrella stroller, with the Ellis's pushing a stroller with an empty car seat and helping to keep Millie headed in the right direction, my heart was filled with gratitude for the tender mercies of God in sending help when we needed it most. I later learned that President Ellis and his wife had continued to help throughout the flight by taking Truman at times. Upon arrival, Sister Ellis met Deidra outside the plane with Truman and the double stroller, while Pres. Ellis was waiting inside the terminal with the single stroller and the carseat. They took the whole kit and caboodle to baggage claim and waited with them until Deidra's mom arrived.

Spencer W. Kimball, a former prophet and president of our church, once said: "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs." I had great respect for President Ellis as an ecclesiastical leader prior to this experience, but I now have an even greater love for him and his wife because of their individual care for our family. And I am humbled by a loving Heavenly Father who answered a prayer in a way more perfect than I could have hoped.