Friday, November 18, 2016

To Abilene, California, and Back! Part 1

Many of you have been so gracious to ask about my journey to California back in August.  So I've been writing this in pieces as life has been a bit on the go since returning.  Plus, since it's National Adoption Month, it seems fitting.

In the previous post (you can click the following link to view), California, Here I Come!, I shared about knowing I was supposed to visit California to meet and pray for my biological father and his family after he received a cancer diagnosis.  On Friday, August 12, 2016, I boarded a plane with the final destination of San Jose, CA where I would get to meet my biological father, Michael, and his side of the family for the first time.  I was set to land around 1:00 AM EST and would go to the Hilton Santa Clara for a night of relaxation before a busy and exhausting day.  As the plane neared the Dallas-Fort Worth airport where my layover would be, the pilot announced that nasty weather would keep us circling for a bit until we were given the "all clear" to land.  After about an hour and a half of circling, we were running low on fuel so we were diverted to Abilene, TX...which is where I'm fairly certain dreams go to die.  I'm kidding...kinda.  After sitting on the tarmac for about two hours, we were told we could head to Dallas in hopes of catching our connecting flights!  Glory hallelujah!  Then...nothing.  We were told that the plane was having engine/mechanical issues.  I would like to add that I'm so grateful this happened while we were ON THE GROUND!  After two and a half hours of waiting on them to get the plane repaired, they said we were spending the night in Abilene but not all of us were guaranteed a hotel room.  Oh and if we wanted to rent a car, they were out of them because other flights that had been diverted had people who got off the planes in attempts to drive to Dallas that night.  At his point, I may or may not have been in tears because I was sleepy and already emotional.  Maybe I'm a little dramatic but whatever.  Thankfully while sitting on the tarmac for 4+ hours, I was entertained by my family and some friends.  Even dad woke up to join in on the group text and said something along the lines of, "Your mom and I will be going to San Antonio in January/February.  We'll stop by and say hi on the way."  I'm sure those around me wondered what I was finding so very comical.

While sitting on the tarmac, I managed to make new friends who all had various reasons for travel.  There was one going on a business trip, one going home from one, and another who was trying to make it home to see his father whose health was rapidly declining.  One thing I've learned is that when we are real with people and transparent, they open up a lot faster.  When people asked me why I was going to California, I was honest.  "Oh.  I'm going to meet my biological father and that side of my biological family for the first time."  We all know that my sense of humor is a little messed up anyway but I got a kick out of it when people were stumped.  After they realized I was just being up front with them, their guards came down.  The guy behind me is a doctor who lives in Rome, GA.  He and his wife are still new to the area and he said he was going home to see his dad for the last time.  He was seemingly shocked at the "coincidences" and said he was just trying to get to Oklahoma.  He had lived in Texas for a bit so he had friends coming to get him at the Abilene airport to get him to where he needed to go before it was too late.  After we had all gotten off of the plane, I asked if I could pray with him and for his dad.  You see, that opportunity was part of the reason for the delay and it was totally worth it.  My sister, Tammy, had made mention through the waiting on the plane that she had been praying and knew there was someone I was supposed to love on and encourage on that plane.  Isn't God amazing?

After deciding to go to the hotel that American Airlines had a deal with, there seemed to be quite a wait for the shuttle.  I looked at a girl who is a few years younger than myself and said, "do you want to share an Uber?  I'm done waiting on transportation."  So my new friend and I did just that.  Around 2:00 AM EST, we got to what appeared to be a scene from a Criminal Minds episode.  It was a motel.  Not a hotel but a motel.  Thankfully the outside was not an indication of the inside and sleep happened.  The next morning I was even able to get ready for another "fun filled" day of travel while on hold with Expedia, getting nowhere.  After going to the lobby to wait for the shuttle to take us all back to the airport, Casey (the girl I met the night before) and I were chatting it up with two guys named Bob, and Chris.  We were all laughing and just chatting about life.  When we got to the airport, I called my sister and was talking with her about the motel and the night, you know...usual stuff.  Next thing I saw was that the flight that was scheduled to leave at 10:00 AM EST had now been moved to Noon and then to 2:00 PM.  We were all going to miss our connecting flights or run into other travel issues if we waited until then.  Next thing I know, Bob says he's getting a rental car and driving to Dallas and that the 3 of us were welcome to come with him if we wanted.  Y'all, I got in a car with people I didn't know and just trusted they weren't serial killers.  For all I know, that flight may still be waiting to leave Abilene to this very day.  I called Tammy and said, "Ummm I'm renting a car with strangers, have fun telling you - bye!" 

Just in case you haven't figured out by now, they weren't serial killers and we made it to Dallas with time to spare before our connecting flights.  Oh and this is where I should mention that my connecting flight to San Jose got delayed.  The humor doesn't escape me in the midst of all of this.  After arriving in San Jose, I went straight to the hotel and was able to get refunded for the night I wasn't able to stay there.  I told the representative assisting me that he was the first person to help with the Expedia nightmare I was living in regards to my trip and the information I kept being given. After hours of being on the phone with Expedia and American Airlines, I was able to extend my flight back home from San Francisco by a day due to the lost day getting to California. Out of exhaustion, I ordered room service and crashed super early because the next day was going to be a long one. 

The next day, I got up and got moving.  I went downstairs for breakfast and mimosas (I brunch like the best of them) and then made plans to meet up with my biological father and his wife first.  I was nervous but felt peace through the process of getting there.  They were extremely thoughtful and considerate of how overwhelming this was going to be, especially since I was coming out their solo.  The best part is, I wasn't alone in this.  I knew that God was with me still and that there were countless people back home praying for me and for Michael and his family.  They both hugged me tightly and we all cried a little and just sat and talked a bit outside a coffee shop.  We then went to their home where I met his parents (SIDE NOTE: He's adopted as well.), my half sister, her fiancĂ©, and their two daughters.  They were all very warm in their welcome and we talked about life in California, my life and family back in Georgia and Tennessee, and the in between.  Eventually, we did talk about my adoption and I felt like he needed to know that me being adopted was the best thing that happened to me.  I didn't want to be disrespectful but I wanted him to know that my parents have given me an amazing life and loved me so well.  I couldn't have picked a better or more fitting family to be part of and am so grateful for them and for how they raised me. 

As the day continued, we discussed friends and family they'd seen on social media and talked a bit about my half sister's upcoming nuptials.  I also got to hang out and love on my nieces, which was fun as well.  I knew the day would be draining in a lot of ways and closer to dinner time there I wanted to go ahead and start winding down.  There would be lots to process from some of the things they told me and I really just wanted to go and call mom.  They showed me family pictures and Michael eventually told me that had he known about me, things would have been different and he would have raised me.  I assured him that things happened how they were supposed to and then asked if I could pray for him and everyone else there.  Thankfully they allowed it and then he and I discussed our differing faiths and views on things.  My prayer is still that he would be healed and come to truly know Christ through all of this.  As we said goodbye, I felt that overwhelming peace again know that God was in this opportunity and I am still so grateful.

Once I got back to the hotel, I went to the restaurant and ordered a beverage.  When the waitress brought it, I was on the phone with mom and we talked about the day.  I later apologized to the waitress for being on my phone and said I had been speaking with my mom.  She said, "No apology needed.  Mom's come first."  We later on discussed the reason for my visiting and again I was honest about it.  She hugged me right then and there and it was the sweetest thing.  Since mom wasn't with me, that lady stood in the gap and hugged me for my mom and blessed me immensely.  Before I left the restaurant that night, we talked a little more and I told her how grateful I was for her hug at that time after that day.  She shared that her mother had passed away this summer and then allowed me to pray with her.  I managed to ask her if she was working the prior night because that would have been when I ate there had my flights been as they were scheduled.  She said that she was off the night before and I looked at her and said, "you're part of why my flight was delayed and Rosa, you were worth it.  Know that you are loved and that God hasn't left you."  We both walked away in tears, after hugging again. 

All of this is to say that God is so faithful and His timing is the best timing.  Even in the pain of waiting, He can be trusted.  I'm still amazed at how He was in each part of this trip and how He is still working from it.  There will be another entry to follow about the vacation part of my trip when I left San Jose but until then, know that Michael's cancer is shrinking and thankfully there's still hope for him to come to know Jesus. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

California, here I come!

Over the past two and a half years, I've come to grips with the fact that the missions opportunities I'm facing are stateside.  When we hear the word, "missions" we think internationally.  Y'all, weekly I'm face to face with opportunities to love other people where they are.  I'm given the chance to pray for and with various employees throughout the county, as well as their families.  Each of us, no matter who or where we are, need consistent encouragement along the way.  There are days that I want to put my head (or someone else's) through a wall due to #hrlife.  It's a give and take.  :)  But God uses me and those people in the process to refine, encourage, and serve as a reminder of His faithfulness in our lives.  I long to "go" still but I'm enjoying the opportunity to stay as well. 

As many of you know, I found my biological family back in 2010 after years of various searches and Columbo style investigating.  I have met and maintained a relationship with my biological mother and her family.  Since my biological father and his family are on the West Coast, it's been a little challenging.  There was a time about 4 years ago that a friend and I were going to head out there to meet them but things came up and it never happened.  After coming back from Tres Dias last Sunday, I saw that my biological father's wife had posted a concerning status so I reached out to see if things were okay.  As it turns out, he has colon cancer that has spread to his stomach and he will be having surgery in a few months if his heart can withstand it.  First he has to do 8 weeks of chemo and then they'll remove his stomach and gall bladder. 

My immediate thought was, "I have to go."  I know I would regret not going if something happened to him but I also felt an urgency to share the gospel in a tangible way.  I'll avoid specifics for now but for the time being, I am asking you to pray.  For healing, a healthy visit (for each of us involved), for Christ to be seen by us all, and even for salvation.  The beauty of not going to Rio or Italy is that this trip is now possible.  God has this and He has me.  Why do I doubt that in the midst of chaos or disappointment?  He is faithful.  So no matter what you're facing today, know that you are loved and fought for.

FYI...Dates for the trip are August 12-14.  I'm staying in Santa Clara for 2 nights and then visiting with some good friends in San Francisco the last two.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Two Years.

Wow.  Has it really been two years?  There are times it feels like just weeks ago and others that it feels like light-years.  This time two years ago, our team was probably gearing up to head to the airport in hopes of catching what would be the last flight out of Atlanta to Paris that day.  Due to weather conditions, our others were canceled so we were praying that this one would come through.  I was thinking about the favor we saw from the start and am just in awe still.  Typically, shuttles to the airport take you to the domestic terminal for you to then catch one to the international terminal.  Our sweet driver offered to just take us straight to the international terminal.  While it may not seem like a big deal to you, it was to us.  With 9 adults, 6 instruments, 9 checked bags (originally...sorry Bea) and some other small carry on pieces, not having to move it again was a big deal.  And looking back, it was a wonderful way to start out on that journey where we tangibly saw God's hand and favor. 

Even looking back at the time leading up to Russia is wonderful because only God could take a Bluegrass band to Russia for the Olympics. Only God could have put that team together.  Only God could have orchestrated raising the funds that got us there.  Looking back at pictures and videos this week have had me laughing to the point of tears and left me grateful for such an incredible journey.  That team will always be so dear to me and while I know the time can't be recreated, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it and miss that time with them. I want to share a bit about each person from that team and how incredible they are.  I know, I know...rambling again but hey, it's my blog and I'll do what I want.

Early Brackin has got to be one of the most patient men I have ever met.  I remember early on he said that our goal wasn't to be flexible but to be fluid because none of us would know what to expect.  He led with grace and loved people so well.  He's like another father to me and reminds me so much of my own.

Lynn Murphy is one of the most well traveled individuals I've ever met.  His experience got us where we needed to be and when.  His humor added to the mix of shenanigans that took place and his kindness to others ministered to the people he traded pins with.

Stephanie & Tod Brock are a wonderfully packaged deal in my book.  Stephanie doesn't meet a stranger and her precious heart was so welcoming to those who gathered to watch the band play.  I have to admit, seeing her and Tod together is one of the most precious things.  I remember being in Red Square as he gave her his valentine gift for her and it was absolutely darling.  They really do love each other well and fit together like a solid pair of goofballs.  :) 

Justin Parrish was the missing piece I had no clue was missing.  It was as if we had known him for years and the amount of laughter and talent he brought was unexpected.  I mean, our group was already hilariously entertaining but he fit perfectly. 

Jared Spier was already a brother to me but getting to see him interact with others while wearing an American flag was one of my most favorite things of all time.  It was so great getting to see him love on others in true Jared fashion and allow God to use him as an instrument of compassion and musicality. 

David Taylor is certainly my little brother and I have to say that it was super fun seeing him experience his first plane experience (not many people on the plane at all on the way there and it was glorious) in addition to seeing him rock the mandolin and kazoo.  He wouldn't admit to it but he interacted with the people there so well and ministered more than he realized with how laid back he was with them. 

Bea Brackin is one of my partners in crime and forever #ABA.  She had a rough start on that trip from being sick when we left and never receiving her luggage.  I've said it before and I'll say it again that no one can rock a cat shirt or a moose sweater like she does.  Knowing Bea for as long as I have, I can say without a doubt that she is one of the most considerate young ladies there ever was.  The laughter she brought to any conversation in addition to her heart for God overflowed to her interactions with others while there.

They're my "dear friends" and I could go on and on about them but I'll stop here.  They're gold in my book and I can't imagine that experience with anyone by them, nor do I want to.  Here's to the fact that we went to change the world but were changed for the better because that's just how good our God is. 

SO MUCH happened while we were there and much has changed since we got back but the one thing that hasn't changed is that God is still present and so very faithful.