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Love Thy Neighbor

I will never, ever do this again…
These were the words repeated over and over in my head last week as my girls and I tried to hop on a Space-A flight to Germany to see my husband.
The military life is a challenging and sacrificing one, but there are some perks. One advantage is the ability, under certain circumstances, to fly stand by on a military flight. There are an assortment of planes to choose from.
Why not try the comfy 777, stocked with cushy, reclining seats, stewardesses bringing drinks, snacks, and headphones for their in-flight movie? Not your cup of tea? Prefer something… edgier? Why not hop on a C-5? Loud, dark, and ready to carry 20 million tons of cargo, this beast goes all over the world. It’s massive size may impress, but wait until you see the bathrooms! There is the C-17, which we got to enjoy, stocked with netted seats and a cold metal floor for napping. My personal favorite, the C-130 has a cozier feel, equipped with a bathroom with or without curtain. So many choices…
This was us last Sunday.
We drove up to Baltimore with a smile on our faces, excitement in the air, and suitcases galore ready to take the 8 hour flight onto our adventure in Germany.
Of course,  flying stand by means uncertainty, but we were feeling optimistic… or maybe naive is a better word. The reality is, you are paying with your time, willing to give it a try for a few days, being flexible, and making a flight when you can. It’s a great plan for retirees who don’t really have anywhere to go and are in it for the adventure. Moms with kids, well, not so much.
(Sleeping on the floor of a C-17)
 
Problem is, I wasn’t thinking it all through very clearly. Or at least, that is what it felt like when 6 p.m rolled around and they didn’t call our name on the flight.

(Photo taken right after we didn’t make the second flight)

We pause here to take a quick rabbit trail to discuss luggage.
When you have three ladies, an international flight, and a vacation for two weeks,(plus school supplies), your bags get heavy. I don’t consider myself an over-packer, but in the end, I had one large suitcase, 3 smaller ones, two back packs, three coats, a laptop bag, and a purse. It didn’t seem all that much until I started carting it around the airport for an entire day. It was like one million pounds of heavy that by the end of the day, I was certain I would either get ripped like Arnold from carrying all these bags or my arms would fall off.
Back to Sunday night…
We didn’t make it on the flight. This means we weren’t going to see Daddy in 10 hours, we didn’t know when we would get on another flight, and we were pooped.
God works in very mysterious ways. And even though I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t make the flight, I was quick  to smile when He showed up in little blue eyes, blond, messy hair, and a wobbly walk.
  Meet Bella.
 
Bella was a beautiful little toddler flying back to Germany with her even more beautiful mom. If I was being 100% honest about it, Bella’s mom really saved the day. Her calming presence talked me down from plunging off the roof of insanity. The kids were starting to see the crazy build up inside of me and the concern was growing. At any moment I would either start crying from sheer exhaustion or begin throwing every piece of luggage I had at the smug attendant behind the counter. Either way, it was about to get ugly.
But Britta, beautiful, perfect, thank-you-for-saving-my-dignity Britta, came to the rescue.
She was really in the same boat I was in. No husband to carry a bag. Small child ready to eat. Tired and desperate to be home in her own bed.
So, we joined forces.
The next 72 hours were full of obstacle after obstacle just trying to get to our destination.
There were hotels, driving in the middle of the night to other bases, loading and loading the van about 47 times, and of course, tiredness beyond belief.
But through the whole ordeal, we didn’t cry, lash out, or lose it. We kept one another grounded. True camaraderie.
And this got me thinking about love.
Love.
Love thy neighbor…
Love is the only reason two strangers would stick together for days, stinky, tired, and with their own set of problems and help one another out.
Love is the driving force behind every kind and generous act in this world. Love is a command, a sacrifice, and a gift.
Sure, a sweet little 18 month old is easy to love. But how about a room full of tired moms and about a dozen kids 10 and under. That’s where we ended up on our last day before we flew out.
Here we were. Five military families, all wives with no husbands with them. We all were trying to get to Germany and we all had gone 72 hours with minimal sleep. Some were nursing moms, but all were desperate and exhausted.
If you pulled all our resources, energy, and attitudes together, at best, we were one mediocre mom that didn’t even have her coffee yet.
But then love stepped in.
When you look around a room and see so much need, this adrenaline tends to build up inside you and get you on your feet. I saw this in each and every mom at one point. We carried one another’s bags. We held one another’s crying baby. We shared our food when someone was hungry, a blanket when someone was cold, and shared a smile when the anxiety showed in someone’s eyes.
Loving thy neighbor was being fully exhibited that day in a cramped waiting room on Andrew’s Air Force Base. And it continued to permeate the C-17 that we rode on that night.
There are few times in my life that I have been that exhausted and frustrated, and without love, I would have never made it.
Love IS God. 
And I truly believe that whether a person believes in God or not, He uses us all to express who He is through these simple actions.
So who knew that a lousy trip on a dark, dingy C-17 could teach me about love. Who knew I would feel loved just because someone helped me unload my van. And who knew I would know love through the presence of so many strangers.
Posted February 24, 2017

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