Category Archives: Stories

Christmas Stories

Christmas Stories

by Letitia Suk

I have a large pile of Christmas books, because I like to read other people’s stories. Usually, they center on a situation with a sticky problem. then a miraculous solution that shows up, at almost the last minute. Do you like those, too?

You and I have our own tales of Christmas, too, like the “Ghosts of Christmas Past.” Maybe not as dramatic, but no less precious. I started keeping a “Christmas Journal” about thirty years ago, as a place to hold all my stories, but the best ones I know by heart.

Some of my memorable Christmas moments didn’t start out all cozy, but more like crazy, or even disastrous. Quite a few, in fact. Sometimes, the solution was a little slow to show up. Funny, how we don’t remember the uneventful ones nearly as well!

Some Christmas memories are almost quirky.  Like my earliest and best Christmas memory is a smell:  the plastic-y smell of a new doll, as every year one showed up under the tree. I still love the smell of new shower curtains, because it is exactly the same scent!

But there are different kinds of memories we can pull up this time of year…

In the great Magnificat, or Mary’s Song, as recorded in Luke, that we read or hear every year, there is one lin, that melts me every time: “For the Mighty One has done Great Things for me, Holy is His name.” ( Luke 1:49)

“Great Things He Has Done,” wow!  I can say with Mary, great things He has done for me, too. I bet you can, too.

What great things are in your storybook? Not just from Christmas-time, but from all times of your life.

The Bible reminds us often to remember. “Only be careful and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart, as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deut 4:9)

Do you have memories of God’s power?  His faithfulness?  His provision?  Great things He has done in your family? I hope you are nodding your head.

Can you remember the first thing God did for you? I wrote about my first memory in “Getaway with God.” I’ll give you a hint, it is about a bird.

At an Advent retreat years ago, the facilitator sent us for an hour of alone time, to answer that question: What are the “great things” He has done? Turned out to be one of the most powerful lists I have ever made.

Try something fun this season, and set aside some time to name all the things God has done for you, in this last year, month, day, so far. If you’ve got a little more time, go back as far as you can.  You can even sit by your tree and sip hot cocoa while you compose your list ☺

Maybe your memories won’t end up nicely packaged on someone’s coffee table (they might!), but you can re-read your own favorite storybook anytime. It is always right at hand.

And this story never ends.

Letitia Suk, author of  Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat.          c. Letitia Suk 2016/Letitiasuk.com

Thank you, Tish, for “guest blogging” this week! Merry Christmas, all! May God’s love fill your life to overflowing in this coming year!  Lydia

Worth the Wait

O’Hare Airport: The Ultimate Test of

Patience, Part 4

(Click to read Part 1: The Scramble, Part 2: Cot City, or Part 3: Giving Thanks!)

Pelicans in tidal pools at Hilton Head

We made it to Hilton Head, and spent four glorious days in a room overlooking the ocean.  When we returned, people asked “how was your trip?” My mind immediately went to

  • sunrises over the water,Sunrise over water at Hilton Head
  • walks on the beach collecting shells,
  • discovering an old Civil War graveyard,discovering a Civil War graveyard at Hilton Head
  • biking down flower-lined streets to a secluded park overlooking the bay,
  • wandering out to an isolated part of the beach at low tide with friends, finding sand dollars and conch shells inhabited by crabs,Gathering shells on the beach with friends at Hilton Head
  • eating great seafood at some wonderful restaurants, including low country boil, and some truly wonderful key lime pie, and
  • strolling through Savannah with my sweetheart.strolling through Savannah with my sweetheart

The “O’Hare experience” was a forgotten nightmare only briefly recalled (just a little PTSD) as we passed through Chicago unimpeded on our way back home. Funny thing, a couple of our new/old friends from the original flight were on the plane with us back to Chicago. They were all smiles. They had a great time on their golf trip–36 holes the first day there.

It is amazing how blessings eclipse tough experiences when we let them. We remember what we choose to remember. We remember what we remind ourselves to remember. And what we share with others is either a gift or a downer.

All good things come to those who wait, especially in difficult situations. Being patient is possible when I know that God works all things to good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose. This truth gives me real hope: I can anticipate with joy the good God is doing and will do.

When did you choose to remember the good during a difficult situation?

Hope is anticipating wtih joy the good God is doingBy Lydia Floren

 

Giving Thanks

O’Hare Airport: The Ultimate Test of Patience, Part 3

(Click to read Part 1: The Scramble, or Part 2: Cot City!)

Beach at Hilton Head

One pair of our travel buddies from Eau Claire, who were going to the same conference we were, were not fortunate enough to actually make it to Hilton Head.  They turned back home after their 3rd connecting flight from Houston fell through (don’t ask).  Nevertheless, Bobbi wrote about her blessings on her Facebook wall, which got me to thinking about my many blessings. So the morning after we arrived I made my own list of things to be thankful for. (Thank you Bobbi, for reminding me to be thankful.)

  • Got to get to know—and bond—with Jeanne, a fellow traveler. What a wonderful person.
  • Some awesome, patient, hardworking airline folks, especially Jill and Lon with United Airlines.
  • Kate from the Westin, who kept our room ready for us, despite >24 hour delays.
  • Two crosswords finished with my husband.
  • Our luggage came on our airplane!!!Birds at Hilton Head
  • My knees and other joints didn’t bother me [always a concern as I gather a few more years], despite tromping from one end of the airport to the other and back again a few times.
  • Exercise.
  • The inner peace and calm I enjoyed almost the entire travel time.
  • My husband’s company, and great care for us.
  • The great sense of humor of fellow travelers, which helped make the long delays more tolerable.Magnolia Bloom at Hilton Head
  • Much to laugh about.
  • The commitment to safety of the FAA, airlines, and airport staff, despite much pressure from us road-weary travelers.
  • My own toothbrush, toothpaste and a change of clothes with me.
  • Carryon bags with wheels!
  • A book on my kindle.Blooms at the beach at Hilton Head
  • Chargers for computer and phone, and a place to plug them in.
  • A great night’s sleep in cot city–thanks to earplugs, a sleeping pill, and my husband-protector, even though we were awoken by a guard at 4am and told to “move along.” (Is this what a homeless person feels like?)
  • I am not a homeless person.
  • An oceanfront room at a gorgeous hotel.
  • Low country shrimp and grits for supper first night, courtesy of Becky and her company.Sunrise at Hilton Head
  • Great conversation at dinner, and of course an audience to share our travel saga with.
  • A shower, a comfortable bed, and privacy.
  • The drum of ocean waves as we slept.
  • Room service breakfast.
  • A quiet day to rest.

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When did you give thanks in a difficult situation? Leave your replies below!

Click here to read O’Hare Airport: The Ultimate Test of Patience Part Four – Worth the Wait!

By Lydia Floren

Cot City

O’Hare Airport: The Ultimate Test of Patience, Part 2

(If you missed Part 1: The Scramble, read it here!)

O'Hare Airport Cot People

It is a little disturbing when an airport has hundreds of cots in storage, and a well-oiled plan to set them up quickly.  It sure makes a person think twice about scheduling travel through such an airport.  At least I think I have learned my lesson.  But I digress…

So the evening of the first day we found ourselves in Cot City.  Cots were set up in long rows up to three cots deep, at one end of each terminal. Each unoccupied cot had a little blanket and pillow sitting neatly on top.  When we arrived about 1/3 of the cots were taken, and we scoped out the best spots still available that would have minimum noise and light, hopefully allowing us some sleep.  I was beginning to wonder if this is how homeless people on the street felt, minus the cot and blanket and pillow and nearby bathroom and credit card.  No, we weren’t Street People quite yet.  We were Cot People.  We made up our cots, putting our carry-ons behind us so no one would steal them in theo'hare airport cot people night.  I headed to the bathroom with my toothbrush and a change of clothes.  I washed my face in the sink and dried it with a paper towel, and headed back.  I hunkered down in my cot, feeling very safe next to my strong husband, put in my earplugs, took a sleeping pill and went to sleep. 

At 4am I was jolted awake by the security officer walking through the rows, hollering at everyone to wake up and move along.  The airport was opening and they needed to clear away the cots.  Each person was handed a standard issue “welcome to Chicago” toiletry packet.  (I’m not kidding.  They really have that written on the front.  I refer you to my first comments.)  We groaned our way off the cots (apparently sleep isn’t so good in Cot City) and clutching our blankies and pillows (who knows how many nights we will be spending here?) we moved along.  We shuffled to the nearest Starbucks, and from there to the next standby gate.  We were getting that haunted look about us.  Fellow travelers from our original flight were old friends, comrades in battle.  We knew the ever-gracious counter agents–our allies on the front line–by first name.

At 7:00 AM we “stood by”—hence the word “standby”– and watched as those lucky enough to have confirmed seats shuffled onto the plane for Savannah.  (There was not room for even one standby passenger.) After that, something amazing happened:  the plane took off.  It actually took off.  To Savannah.  Same thing happened at 11am. Stand by. Shuffle. Take off. To Savannah. Our hope was renewed.o'hare airport cot people

At the 1:20 flight—where we had actual tickets–we finally felt sure enough to abandon our blankies.  For the second time—about 24 hours after the first–we handed our tattered boarding passes to a gate agent and prepared to get on the plane for Savannah.  An alarm sounded, and a red light flashed.  The agent looked up, rescanned. More alarms. More red lights.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if he had held out his arms like Gandalf and declared “you shall not pass.”  But he didn’t.  He double-checked the manifest against our driver’s licenses, and waved us through.  Whew.  We hurried forward before he changed his mind.

For the second time in 24 hours we were buckled into seats on a direct flight to Savannah.  The flight attendant apologized for the five minute delay in leaving (are you kidding me?), and explained the safety instructions as we rolled toward the runway. Been there. Done that.  I don’t think I really believed we were going to get there until we took off.  I clapped and cheered.  When we landed I had a brief impulse to kiss the ground.

beach at hilton head

Click here to read O’Hare Airport: The Ultimate Test of Patience Part Three – Giving Thanks!

I know you’ve all had a travel mishap that was simply unbelievable. Go ahead and share!

By Lydia Floren

The Scramble

O’Hare Airport: The Ultimate Test of Patience, Part 1

cot people ohare airport the ultimate test of patience

Everyone has a horror story or two about travel, and I usually don’t bore people with mine, but after 34 hours in the O’Hare airport recently I feel compelled to “share the love.”  (The irony that this experience occurred in the month I am meditating on patience is not lost on me, BTW.)

Andrew and I got up at 4am and drove to the airport, planning to hop on a flight to Chicago, and then take a connecting flight to Savannah, on our way to Hilton Head, SC for a long weekend conference and getaway.  Things went according to plan from Eau Claire to Chicago, but we arrived to relative chaos at the O’Hare airport which was jammed up after three days of bad weather.  When we checked in at the gate for our connecting flight to Savannah, we were immediately told of a delay because our crew lacked one flight attendant. We waited. And waited. 2 ½ hours later a cheer from the passengers greeted the arrival of our substitute crewmember, and we started boarding shortly after.  I scheduled dinner reservations in Savannah, and texted friends we were to meet up with, informing them of our delay.

With everyone seated, we rolled onto the runway, in a long queue of planes waiting to take off.  And then we waited. And waited.  The pilot gave us periodic updates.  Some kind of trouble with weather, and then something with air traffic control.  A fire.  The control center had to be evacuated. After two hours on the tarmac–we were #2 for takeoff– the pilot’s voice over the intercom regretfully informed us that we had exceeded the legal time we were allowed to sit on a plane.  We would have to return to the gate, and deplane, and then re-board a little later.  No one could believe it!  Sure enough we turned around, headed back, and shuffled off the plane.  Two more hours went by, and then they announced we were about to re-board. Finally. We all gathered our things, dug out our tattered boarding passes, and moved toward the gate.

cot people ohare airport the ultimate test of patience

Suddenly our flight was cancelled!  Really?  Really?? We had a plane. We had a full crew. We had a room full of road-weary travelers. But what we didn’t have was a working radar to guide us safely into the air.  Details, details.

Everyone launched into action, scrambling for a new connection, no easy feat in an airport crammed with fellow travelers on a similar mission.  Armed with cellphones and dragging bags, everyone rushed to our airline’s help desk, where the line snaked ominously down the terminal.  Folks were surprisingly calm, joking about our shared dilemma, although you could tell the ones who had already spent at least one night at O’Hare—they had kind of a haunted look.  I cancelled our dinner plans, and texted our friends and told them to go on to the restaurant and change the seating from 4 to 2.  Andrew called and reconfirmed our hotel and car reservations. The airline booked us on a flight out the next afternoon, but told there was a good chance we could catch the last flight out at 7:20pm that night flying standby.  We hurried across the terminal to the new gate, and grabbed a quick dinner before boarding time.  We might not get to see the sunset at the beach that night, but at least we had a decent chance of walking along the shore under the moonlight.

Our friends texted us from Savannah.  The restaurant was A-MA-ZING.

About 20 min before the evening flight was to board, it cancelled.  In fact, we were told, no further flights would be leaving O’Hare that evening.  By this time, of course, every hotel room for miles was booked.  We decided that since there was an early flight the next morning and we were numbers 2 and 3 on the standby list, our best option was to spend the night at the O’Hare airport.  We headed to “cot city.”

What would you have done? Tell us below!

Click here to read O’Hare Airport: The Ultimate Test of Patience Part Two – Cot City

By Lydia Floren