My Cup Runneth Over

Last month, Steve, a fellow pilgrim whom I consider a good friend though we’ve never met in person, dropped me a text: “Keith, I’ll be in Ecuador in January.  Spirit Air has ridiculously low tickets.  You’ve got a room if you want to join me.”  Want to join him?!?  I love Ecuador!  I definitely want to sit down face to face with my friend!  But, I just didn’t know about the logistics.  I was serving an interim pastorate for a nearby church, plus I already had a trip to PA planned for late January to meet my new grandson Eli.  The church had voted to call a new pastor, but I had no idea how long to expect before he would be on site.  So I asked.  Happily, the new pastor wanted his tenure to begin with the new year.  So I would be free to roam about the country … or even to roam outside the country.  Overjoyed, I booked the trip.

This trip was a kindness from God for so many reasons.  It scratched my seemingly perpetual itch for adventure.  I’d get to return to a place I absolutely love.  I’d get to meet my friend face to face.  And it would help me start a new year with my head on straight.  You see, one thing I really didn’t anticipate about the interim pastorate was how much I would come to love those people.  It’s a lot like foster parenting.  Just when I had come to love them so deeply, I had to release them.  I know it’s the right thing, of course.  A permanent pastor is in their best interest, it has to be this way, etc.  I know all that.  But that doesn’t make it any easier emotionally.  So, I immediately recognized a trip to EC as the kind providence of a loving Father, an opportunity to put my heart back in order before I slipped into a quiet funk.

Then came Dec. 30.  I had preached my last service that evening, so I was a bit, shall we say, mellow.  Late into the night, I felt the need to look forward.  So I did an internet search for “Travel to Ecuador” to find out what the weather would be like, to garner helpful travel hints from others, etc.  The top hit was “Everything You Need to Know to Travel to Ecuador.”  Perfect!  I called up the site and saw Item #1: “Be sure your passport is valid for 6 months beyond your intended stay.”  Wait … what?  As I reread that line, my brain was whirring.  I knew my passport expired in April 2019.  I felt a one-two punch–the immediate uppercut of shock followed by the body-blow of reality setting in.  The trip to Ecuador was in sudden and serious jeopardy!

Frantic research for a solution yielded a ray of hope.  I could make a personal appointment at the Regional Passport Office in Atlanta.  But that hope was mixed.  Was the office even open, or were they affected by the partial government shutdown?  Even if they were open, could they renew my passport within a week?  What if they returned it by UPS, and it got lost like my last two packages from that carrier? Then, in the midst of that panicked moment, I was calmed by two realizations. First, there was not a blessed thing I could do about any of it.  I had no control over the government shutdown, the passport office, UPS … none!  This was in God’s hands.  The second realization was a natural extension of the first: This is in God’s hands, and that’s perfect.  If He wants me to go to Ecuador, that’s perfect.  If He wants me to stay home, that’s perfect, too.  So, riding a tide of peace, I booked the earliest possible online appointment for Jan. 2.

On Jan. 1, I drove to Atlanta to spend the night with friends Bill and Sheila.  These are completely and utterly incredible people, genuine followers of Jesus in thought, in word, in deed, in life.  Every time I’m with them, I’m reminded of how blessed I am just to know them, how kind God has been to let my path intersect with theirs.  And this visit was especially rich.  They were also hosting friends Bill had made while serving God in Guam.  After an incredible meal and the joy of meeting these new friends, I thought to myself, “Even if God’s purpose in all of this were to bring me to Atlanta only for this experience, it would be enough.”

The next morning, I left early for my 10 a.m. appointment.  I didn’t know if the office would be open.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I certainly did not expect what came next.  The office was open.  That was good!  The people who staffed that open office?  Well, they were great!!  The receptionist in the lobby simply beamed as she directed me to the 10th Floor.  The security guards were notably friendly.  I told them I had been worried that the office would be closed by the shutdown.  One guard said, “No, we’re open, but I have a lot of friends affected by it.  You know, if they so much as miss one mortgage payment, they’ll lose security clearance and be out of their job.”  It cast a whole new light on things for me.  While I might lose a trip to Ecuador, hundreds of thousands of people are in danger of losing much, much more.  I moved through to the intake agent, who listened with genuine concern to my problem.  She said with a pleasant smile and hopeful air, “I think we’ll be able to help you.”  She entered my info on a computer, and asked me to take a seat.  Fifteen minutes later, I was called to Window No. 2, where a young man sat behind a bullet-proof shield.  “How are you today,” he asked.  “Nervous,” I said.  “Why’s that?”  I explained my eleventh hour discovery and my concern that the trip was now off .  “What time is your flight?” he asked. I was a bit surprised by the question.  Not “what day,” but “what time.”  “I have an evening flight next Wednesday,” I answered.  “Wait, your flight isn’t today?”  “No, next Wednesday.”  He chuckled. Heartily.  “Keith,” he said, “that’s not last minute around here.  Some of these people in this room have flights this afternoon.  And we’re going to be sure they make them.  Getting you on board next Wednesday might be the easiest case we handle today.”  He looked over my papers, then said, “This is all perfect.  Now, I don’t want you freaking out about delivery (how did he know?), so if you can come back at 12:30, I’ll hand you your new passport personally.”  I gushed like a schoolgirl, “You are now my favorite super hero!”

I then had a bit over two hours to kill.  I looked down the road and saw The Hurt Building, where I had worked as an attorney.  I’ve always loved that building, where Matlock fictionally practiced law but where I actually did so.  I thought I’d just go see how it had changed in 25 years.  As I stood out front, I sent a text to a friend who was a colleague at that time, just to say I was standing in front of our old workplace.  She was in CA for the happy occasion of her son’s wedding … or so I thought.  The answer came back, “You’re in ATL?”  “Yes, I really am in front of The Hurt Building.”  “I’m in The Equitable Building!” she said.  We were a three-minute walk apart.  So I made the trek over to her office.  We spent the next hour and a half catching up and sharing happy memories.  We were both a bit stunned to realize it had been almost 9 years since we last saw each other.  She’s now a partner in an amazing up-and-coming business that provides specialized data to law firms.  I could not be prouder of her nor happier for her.  We compared notes on our families and talked about the ups and downs of our past decades.  Internally, I exulted in the richness of my life and of hers.  And I thought to myself, “What a kind providence that my Father made me come to Atlanta!  First I get this enriching visit with Bill and Sheila.  Then this amazing personal service from the Passport Agency.  Now I get the unexpected joy of reconnecting with Kim.  All of this would have been worth the trip to Atlanta even if nothing could have been done about the passport!”

Today, just when my life could not possibly get any better, I walked to lunch with my daughter Amber.  I am reminded of how special it is that she calls me “Dad.”  On our way home, we stop at a local thrift store, where I’m keeping my eye on a suit jacket, waiting for it to go on sale.  It’s still there.  As I rehang it on the rack, I notice something else.  Something I’ve always wanted but have been too cheap to buy for myself.  A seersucker jacket.  In my size.  Brand new.  With tags.  I was so stunned that I paid the full $6.  Even though it was full asking price at the thrift store, it was still considerably less than the $125 price tag still attached to the sleeve.

So … my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.  And (when all the days of my life have run) I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

My life is good beyond the telling of it.  And the beckoning future better still.

gkr1996 posted at 2019-1-3 Category: Personal