Shattered Expectations

This is a story of my car, my northwest roadtrip and the unexpected things that God uses in the process of sanctification.  I did use the word process so this means that it is still happening.  The end is yet to be determined but read on for the saga thus far.

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On Wednesday I left my place in Sacramento at 5:50am.  By 7:30 I was well on the road, I-5 between Sacramento and Redding.  The road was wide open, the closest car to me about a 1/2 mile behind and I was using cruise control as well as listening to my book on CD.  There was no need for me to be in the fast lane so I moved over.  Then came the POP!  It sounded like a balloon bursting or a paper bag when you fill it with air and pop it.  I flinched and looked in my rear view mirror.  The back window had completely shattered.  I didn’t go under a bridge, there was nothing around me on the road, I wasn’t driving backwards but something hit the back window.

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So I pulled over and called my dad.  Because, let’s face it, dads can help with almost anything.  After a short chat and determining that everything was ok (except of course the shattered window), I continued onto Redding with the broken window slowly falling in behind me.  Long story short, by 1 in the afternoon, I was back on the road with a new window ringed in blue tape.  I was happy to be on the road again but I was about 5 or so hours behind my intended schedule.

IMG_9734Because of the delay, I missed a couple meetings in Eugene but I made it safely to Oregon by 7 in the evening.  I was exhausted but a good nights sleep and some blueberry picking in the morning made things a bit better.  So where does the sanctification come in?

From the moment my window broke, I considered turning around and heading back to Sacramento.  The whole way to Redding, I talked to God.  I can’t even really explain what I was thinking but this was the beginning of God’s latest work in my heart.  I am a planner, I am an organizer.  When my window shattered, I felt in some ways that all my expectations for this roadtrip shattered as well.  Despite all the emails, phone calls and scheduling, I still can’t anticipate everything.  Meetings fall through, plans change, windows break, road construction and traffic happen.  Now I am 6 days into my trip and while I am thankful for the meetings and reunions I have had, I have to admit that I am very disappointed that it hasn’t been what I thought it would be.  And if I am honest, this isn’t all about the trip.  There are plenty of other things going on in my life and God is slowly working on my heart in many ways.

I believe in a sovereign, omnipotent God.  I may not be in control but God is.  However, the ways he chooses to work in us isn’t always pleasant.  Sometimes it’s like having a deep infected wound cleaned out.  You know it has to happen in order for the healing to start but the process is extremely painful.  The shattered window in and of itself was just a blip on the path but that blip was a catalyst  for change.  And it’s not over yet because this is a process.

I’m continuing to pray and listening to what God is telling me.  Sometimes things have to be broken before they can be fixed again.  Please pray with me.

 

 

How I Buy Plane Tickets

Today I’ve been searching online sites to try and find a good deal for my upcoming trip to Atlanta.  For the most part I find domestic flights easier to book than international flights.  But they all have their own challenges and I generally have more experience booking international tickets.  I was contemplating writing about “How to” get the best deal but I realized that it would be silly because I don’t know really “How to” do that.  Instead I just have a system which seems to work for me.  Maybe I don’t get the cheapest flights all the time but I tend to generally get reasonable deals and that makes me happy enough.

So here’s another aspect of my search.  I do pray over the airplane tickets that I buy.  This may not be a typical starting place for some people but I feel like I need to give decisions like these to God.  Partially because it’s built into my job and partially because it is his money anyway.  Yes, I also have an obligation to my financial supporters but even if I didn’t, the money I use would still be God’s.

With that said, I always begin the internet part of my search with multiple searches on multiple travel booking sites.  I still haven’t found one that always shows better deals so I tend to look through them all or at least a good portion of them.  I also put in different airports.  Sometimes it isn’t an option but it doesn’t take that much more effort for me to get to and from San Francisco or LAX so if the deal is amazing enough to cover the gas then I could make that choice.  And of course being flexible on the days you travel sometimes makes a $100 plus difference.  I do generally prefer the travel sites (and the airline sites) that allow you to see the difference in flight costs by the day easily.  If i’m traveling internationally, I generally contact travel agents and get them in on this part.  I have a few different ones that I contact based on where I am traveling and the deals I know they have gotten me in the past or based on recommendations from friends.

Then I take what I learn from these searches and put them in myself to the airlines websites.  Sometimes I am surprised because the ticket costs less from the airline directly.  Sometimes the search site has a better fare.  But always compare the total cost because both airlines and ticket sites can sometimes have hidden fees that don’t show up until you are actually being charged.  If I get a quote from a travel agent then I also check to see if I can get a better price myself.  However, if travel plans might change, booking through a travel agent is nice because you have someone to help you.  Sometimes they can fix things with a small fee that would cost you an entirely new ticket.  This is also true when you have close connecting flights.

After this step I weigh my options and include information like what time of day the flights are available, which airport, days of the week, non-stop or multiple stops and other factors that make a difference in both cost and convenience.  For example, I shouldn’t book a flight out of LAX on a weekday morning since my ride has a job that wouldn’t allow him to take me to the airport on a weekday morning.  And a cheaper flight with a layover in a snowy place during storm season could cause more headaches than the difference in ticket price.  International travel should include thinking about visa issues in layover countries and careful calculation of time zones.  Once again, a travel agent is super helpful if it is a trip you haven’t ever made before.

Once I find myself leaning towards one ticket, I check with my airport rides on either end and then I usually wait at least 12 hours before buying the ticket.  I also pray over the decision again.  And finally, I buy the ticket.  Notice how many time I wrote sometimes or generally in the above paragraphs?  For me airplane ticket buying is not an exact science.  There is no formula that works %100 of the time.  Sometimes your flights get messed up, sometimes it is your fault, sometimes it is the airlines but hopefully in the end you get to your destination.

Alright, enough talk.  I’m going to book some tickets today!

Another Way to Travel

I recently found some extra magnets that I had designed with pictures from Papua New Guinea.  These were made as a reminder for people to pray for my life and work in PNG.  Even though I will not be returning to Papua New Guinea at this point, the magnets are still a sweet reminder of the special people who I lived and worked with.  I think that 99% of supporters and friends would keep this magnet on their refrigerator but some friends get a little more creative.  It looks like my magnetic self’s preferred form of transportation is motorcycle.

Yeah, Pismo!

Camping at Pismo Beach with friends was pretty awesome.  We endured sand showers and lack of other showers in order to enjoyed a bit of Jeep off-roading on the sand dunes, campfire cooking, late night jam sessions, long walks on the beach, trips into town to relieve our windblown faces, great community and all sorts of other fun!

I haven’t been camping american style in years so this was a great treat.  The picture below was taken from Pismo Pier and you can see the sandy dunes way in the background.  The weather was great except the afternoons which were super, ridiculously windy.  We all definitely came home with enough sand to make our own commemorative sand art.  Gotta love the beach, friends and California!

Back in the Car

I would say most Americans take driving for granted.  It’s just a part of what we have to do each and every day.  I don’t know if the average American would remember the last day they didn’t drive.  However, I definitely do not take driving for granted and I am reminded of this fact every time I come home from a trip.  I’ve only been gone for the past month but I didn’t drive at all and was using public transportation more often then I was even in a car.  No, I don’t forget how to drive but it’s just different if you haven’t driven in awhile.

I guess that I do forget what it feels like to be in control of a car.  The spacial awareness of where the tires are and how close you can get to other cars as you drive by.  I forget what it is like to have to multi-task; keeping in your lane, noticing traffic lights, checking for other cars, adjusting the air conditioning, using your mirrors, etc.  I know that each time I come back from not driving the first couple of times behind the wheel will throw me for a loop but the feeling does go away fairly quickly.  It really is nice to be back even if it means that I have to drive.

A Traveler’s Life

Monday Košice, Tuesday Budapest, Wednesday Berlin, Thursday Sacramento.  It may sound adventurous, it may even sound romantic but when I realized this is how my week would look, I just wanted a nap.  Modern travel by train and airplane, as well as the wonders of a close together Europe make this trip very possible.  However, it takes a toll on the mind and body to be in so many different situations, hearing and using multiple languages, interacting with people from various cultures and the stress and mental energy it takes to navigate multiple train stations, airports and taking care of other transportation needs.

For me this is the home stretch.  Just the final few hours before making the trek to the airport and getting on a plane to bring me back to California.  It’s been quite the month of travel.  And now I am tasked with taking all the information i’ve compiled about different people and places and using it to make a decision about the future.  I’m very thankful that I was able to put my feet on the ground, get my hands dirty and see the different cities and work options from a close-up and hopefully more realistic perspective.

At this point i’ve made no final decisions.  I’m going to give myself some space, pray, have a few more conversations to fill in some gaps and see how my heart pulls me.  It’s an exciting yet nerve-wracking time but I don’t think I would have it any other way.

A Day in Budapest

It was a blustery beautiful day in Budapest.  People were out enjoying the sunshine that was playing hide and seek behind the fast moving clouds.  Since my train was late coming into the city, I got to meet my friend’s neighbor who was kind enough to let me use her phone and leave my luggage as I arranged to get the house keys in the city center.

My friend’s housemate and I met on the steps of the St. Stephen’s Basilica and I was given house keys and turned loose on the city.  I spent the next few hours enjoying the beautiful architecture, bridges and buildings all throughout the city.  And when I got hungry I ate a yummy lunch of hole in the wall Chinese food.  It’s always interesting to have ethnic food in different places, Indian in Slovakia, Chinese in Hungary, etc.

Then I had the brilliant idea of asking the tourist info booth to help me order a taxi for to go to the airport.  It worked and the taxi was outside waiting for me at 4:30 this morning.  After ordering the taxi, I tried using my handful of Hungarian coins to make a phone call to another friend of a friend.  It took about 600 forint (over $2) and a few different calls but we finally made plans to meet.  The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying small cafes and drinking a beer while sitting by the Danube river.  A lovely day in a lovely city.