It came as no surprise that I did not sleep on the flights from Dallas through
Chicago and all the way to our layover in Helsinki. Not sleeping on flights is
not unusual for me but I had been so hopeful that with the abundant lack of
sleep leading up to the trip this surely would be the trip I could break that
Our joyful expectation of the 12 hour layover in Helsinki had been building every since Susan found this wonderful connection that would save us over $300 on the cost of each ticket and would fit so beautifully into our ongoing desire to experience yet another city and country. It also provided a welcome savings.
When we arrived in Helsinki the sun was out to greet us and the temperature was cool enough that Susan was glad to have her sweater. The cool weather also helped me overcome the fatigue. Although I found myself a little unsteady at times, we enjoyed the day. We were able go into the heart of the city and view a spectacular Lutheran cathedral and a smaller, but no less impressive, Russian Orthodox church. We even managed to fit in a tour to the famous island fortress just off shore of the city. This included a boat ride to and from that provided spectacular views from the water of this beautiful city. After a couple of hours of sightseeing at the fortress, we purchased some traditional Finnish food items and sat on the lush (click "Read More" below to continue reading)
Given my discomfort at stuffing myself into airline seats, my custom is to wait until the last moment to board the plane. This allows me to stand as long as possible and minimizes the amount of time I am crunched in the tight quarters. I must admit that as I watched the boarding process I started having second thoughts as I watched the masses standing in line with their two carry-on bags plus many more bags from the duty free shops. Susan and I got separated on the boarding ramp so I went ahead to get my bag stowed so I could help her when she arrived. As I made my way down the aisle I tried to look ahead and I noticed a gap in the overhead bins in the area of our seats and my anxiety began to increase. Would we be able find storage for our bags? What would happen next would make me wonder, "When will I ever learn to trust in Jesus?"
As I approached the seats from the front, I could hardly miss the glowing face of the stewardess approaching from the rear of the plane. She must have noticed my anxiety and politely asked me if I had been assigned to this Exit row. I nodded and said I did not see any place to put our bags. Her face lit up with the biggest smile as she advised me that she had taken care of that already and opened the overhead bin directly behind the seats which she had reserved just for us. Why had I thought I needed to be concerned, when God was so obviously in control of the situation? I had been so concerned about storing our bags that I hadn't yet noticed the huge Exit row included 4 feet of extended leg room! Susan arrived at our seats by that time and I have to tell you we began to feel like Royalty.
The stewardess was a beautiful young Finish girl named Heine and she made sure that we were well taken care of. Although Heine made us feel very special, it did not take long to recognize that this was her very nature and she was attentive to all her passengers, which in no way diminished the care she provided to us during the pre-flight routines. As this acclimation process was going on the spaciousness of our accommodations began to sink in.
I was amazed at how comfortable I felt as we prepared for departure and left Helsinki behind. We were not long in the air when the stewards brought a meal with a distinctively Indian flair. I consumed mine and most of Susan's as well. These two meals, in addition to the delicious salmon salad we had shared in the terminal, filled my tummy so by this time I was feeling very good. I nestled back in my seat, put my horse collar travel pillow around my neck, and settled down for a long summers nap. I did not really expect to sleep but knew I could at least relax, stretch out and unwind. Within minutes, I was sleeping soundly, a feat I had not experienced in days.
(Jim's Special Note)
Susan and I are finding that our stories are often not complete with just one side and are amplified by the other's point of view. In other words, we love to jump in and out of each other's stories, embellishing and expounding as we feel necessary. Often we feel that between the two of us, we might almost remember most of what really might have happened - or at least make it more entertaining if not. So, since at this point I was sublimely unaware of the activities in the cabin of the plane, I am now inviting her to jump into the story.
I was worried about Jim's lack of sleep and particularly because I knew he wouldn't complain. He was as excited about visiting the sights in Helsinki as I, but it quickly became obvious he was struggling with extreme fatigue and when he nodded off during military history movie at a museum, I knew things were bad. When we returned to the airport and prepared to board the plane, Jim led the way and when I arrived at our assigned seats, I was super-excited to see all the extra leg room. YES! Now Jim could stretch out his extra-long legs and truly relax on our 9 hr flight to Delhi. Later, I was surprised to learn that he had been so worried about stowing our bags that he hadn't even noticed the blessing of abundant leg room in our row. When dinner arrived, Jim quickly devoured his full meal and most of mine as well. With 3 meals resting comfortably in his very full belly, Jim stretched out his long legs and we laughed that his feet were still almost 18" from the seat in front of us. This was going to be GREAT! Within minutes, Jim was soundly asleep and I enjoyed a moment of praise and thanksgiving for God's abundance of nourishment and leg room. I closed my eyes and settled in for a good night's sleep.
Within minutes, I was jolted awake! The joy I previously felt melted into frustration as I realized that the extra leg room space soon became a gathering place for other passengers who wanted to stretch their legs during the flight. One man accidentally kicked me, jarring me awake, as he stepped over my legs to talk to his friend sitting in the seat in front of us. I was annoyed at being awakened and my frustration grew when they continued to carry on a lengthy conversation. As I tried to ignore them and go back to sleep, suddenly the man bumped Jim's legs. My protectiveness kicked in and I worried Jim's long-awaited sleep was in jeopardy. But Jim didn't stir so I positioned my feet in a protective stance between the man and Jim's and cautiously closed my eyes again. The 3rd time he bumped us, I got angry! I tapped the man's legs and attempted a polite tone as I told him that Jim had not slept in 36 hrs and where he chose to stand was the only place we had to put our legs. While I'm quite certain I did not achieve the level of politeness I desired, the man was quick to get the message and moved.
With our abundant gift of leg room restored to its "rightful owner", I closed my eyes and smiled smugly in anticipation of the sleep that would soon be mine. Imagine my disappointment when, instead of rest, my mind raced, replaying the events. Who did this man think he was, standing in our space? Couldn't he see that we were trying to sleep? Didn't he realize that his own personal comfort belonged somewhere well behind us, in the tiny seats? How would he like it if I followed him back to his seat and stood in the only space he had for his feet?? OK - I'll admit it. The mental image of me standing in the man's 10" of leg room brought me some perverse satisfaction.
Despite the nasty attitude that was growing in my heart, I managed to drift off to sleep once again. But soon, I was once again jolted awake. Bump! An older man brushed past me, bumping my head in his stroll up and down the aisle. I watched as he pushed himself up and down the long aisle, back and forth, oblivious to the many heads, arms, and toes he bumped time after time. When he paused with a covetous eye on our extra leg space, I blocked him by propping my feet firmly on my bag, sending him back to pacing in the aisle. Are you kidding me? An evening stroll on a crowded airplane filled with people trying to sleep? Once again, my mind was racing in frustration and (big surprise) sleep was impossible. By now, I was really getting worked up and I had to force my thoughts to back off, lest we find ourselves in a brawl on the plane. I thought we could probably take the Old Pacer but didn't want to risk being ejected somewhere over Afghanistan!
I closed my eyes and tried to quiet my mind from thinking all kinds of unkind thoughts. How did I go from great joy in experiencing the abundant leg room to such nasty thoughts? I had become so protective of our extra room that I began to resent our fellow passengers for the small comfort they enjoyed. How does that happen so quickly? On my better days, I remember that our communion with God is Satan's nemesis and he is quick to steal our joy by baiting us to feel offense from others. In recent years, I have learned that when I recognize the Enemy's presence in my thoughts, the best response is to turn to Jesus in prayer and so I began to pray for the men toward whom I had directed my silent resentment. Perhaps the man who was enjoying his relationship with his friend stood in our leg space to graciously avoid blocking the aisle for others. I imagined his delight to find empty space so near his friend. I considered that maybe the older man who paced for hours suffered from hip or joint pain, exacerbated by his cramped seat on a long flight. Perhaps a seat with extra leg room would have been the blessing that could have eased his pain so he could have slept. Why were we given the extra space and not this man? Suddenly, when I turned to prayer, my thinking shifted, and I began to see things differently - with discernment and with compassion. It had been a long, difficult, sleepless night. I had run a gauntlet of emotions but was pleased to have learned my lesson and finished well. I was remorseful and vowed not to breathe a word of this to Jim, much less anyone else. ;-) Now, with peace finally restored in my heart, I slowly drifted back to sleep, smiling as I thought of Jim still sleeping soundly through the night.
Jim's Story Continues
I awoke rested and restored, realizing that I must have been asleep for a long time. Never have I experienced such a restful flight. I was also relieved to see that Susan seemed to be sleeping peacefully and imagined that she must have also enjoyed a good night's sleep. I spent a few minutes thanking God for the blessing of rest.
As the stewards approached our row I woke Susan for breakfast and was amazed as she shared with me what Paul Harvey would call "the rest of the story." Susan is such a positive person that I was surprised as she began to share her struggles in the night. It is great to have a relationship that is strong enough to share the negatives as they come, as well as the many blessings. Susan later shared that she really didn't want to admit to her cranky attitude most of the night but if she had been successful at hiding her negative thoughts and not been willing to share them, we would not have fully understood the lesson God had planned for us that day. It was another remedial lesson, for God has taught this before. Satan is always looking for an opening, no matter how small, to try to deflect our eyes from God's abundance all around. He wants us to focus on something - anything - as he tempts us to imagine we might be missing out on something better.
Another lesson we have re-learned recently is that indeed, God is Big Enough - Abundantly Big Enough!
- Big enough to give us extended time with our children, grandchildren and long-time friends & family before departure
- Big enough to give us over $600 savings on airfare
- Big enough to allow us to breeze through the airport check in process on most flights with no overweight charges
- Big enough to give us a fabulous day in Helsinki accentuated by beautiful weather
- Big enough to bless us with delightful Heine who extended such warm hospitality to us on the flight
- Big enough to give Jim 3 dinner meals
- Big enough to give us "big enough" leg room on an 9 hr flight
And finally ....
Big enough to give us sleep - glorious sleep.
While we continue to enjoy God's abundant blessings, we know we are not alone. We invite you to look around you at the abundance God is pouring over you. We'd love for you to comment below, sharing your own list of abundant blessings, perhaps even in a time of great trial. We also invite you to reject the "Bait of Satan" and not allow yourself to be offended by what others might be doing around you. The choice is ours. Abundant blessings or abundant resentment. It's all in who you choose to listen to.
Well rested & abundantly thankful,