It was Saturday, the day before the International Christian Retailers Show, and I was stressed. I was to catch a plane for Colorado at 6:10 AM the next morning. I didn’t feel prepared for the show because I’d spent the previous week vacationing. On the previous Thursday, I called my publisher with questions about the show and they promised to call back with information. I still hadn’t heard from them.
By 10:00 on Saturday morning, we’d packed everything up and checked out of our beachfront condominium. At 1:30 PM on Saturday afternoon, I had a business meeting for an organization for which I’m on the board. My daughter had scheduled a friend’s wedding shower at my house at what I thought was 7:00 PM. On Friday night, I’d found out my daughter had forgotten to mention that the shower time had been changed to 2:00 PM.
I had promised to help with the shower and was torn about the time conflict. I decided the organization was depending on me to fulfill my duty and I knew my daughter could handle the shower alone. I’d also thought I’d have the afternoon after the business meeting to pick up a shower gift. Thank God for a husband who is willing to shop.
I went to the meeting and arrived home, almost two hours late for the shower. I made my apologies to the bride and tried to help any way I could. Guests stayed until 5:30 PM. When we finished washing the last dish, I wanted to collapse into bed but had to pack for the show.
Preparing for the show was a nightmare. I searched the house frantically for missing information. My computer wouldn’t connect with my printer so I had difficulty printing out the e-mails containing the flight, hotel, and logistical information. Bob calmly and quietly helped. Occasionally, when the crescendo of my apprehension reached new levels, he’d reach over and touch my bracelet which says, “I am always with you.” I wondered if Bob knew the danger of reminding me about God in my frantic state.
Bob got the printer working and we printed out the information. When I finally came downstairs with my computer packed, Bob said, “Oh, I wanted to back up your files before you left.” We’re computer people and know better but it had been weeks, possibly months, since the last backup. “We’re going to bed!” I snapped, not wanting to boot the slow computer again.
“I think I should back up your computer,” Bob insisted.
Since anger hadn’t been effective, I tried desperation. Hoping I was pleading and not whining, I said, “Bob, I can’t stand staying up another minute. I have to get up in 4 hours.” The strategy worked and we went to bed without backing up the computer.
I have little memory of the flight because I slept through it but I must have changed airplanes somewhere along the line because I ended up in Colorado. The hotel had instructed me to take a Super Shuttle but I couldn’t find it. As I wandered outside the hotel, a man walked up and said, “If you’re going downtown, I’ll take you.”
I don’t normally accept invitations from strange men but he pointed to a white van full of people. It didn’t say “Super Shuttle” but the people inside looked normal enough so I ignored the fear that I was being kidnapped into a life of slavery and climbed into the van to wait for him to drum up more passengers.
I sat down beside a tall thin dark headed young man. “Are you from here,” I asked.
“I’m going to school here,” he answered. “I’ve been on a break.” We chatted until two women climbed in the back. As the women talked, I realized they were going to the same show as I. I immediately turned away from the friendly young man and began talking with the new passengers sitting behind me. One of the women was an author. The other was a bookstore manger.
Both of us authors leapt on the opportunity to market to a potential book buyer. We competed for “air time” with this poor book store owner, each of us interrupting and talking faster and louder. We pontificated for about fifteen minutes, when I realized I’d met my match in the other author. She was winning the competition. I competed another minute and suddenly felt ashamed. I got quiet and listened to the other author. Every other word was “I.” I knew I had sounded the same way and that we had not been a good witness to the other six passengers, who most assuredly knew we were going to a Christian conference.
I quietly withdrew from the conversation and the other author never even noticed. I began talking once again to the young man sitting next to me. He said he was raised Catholic but was no longer active in church. He admitted to spiritual confusion.
I briefly shared my faith, feeling rushed because we were pulling into my hotel. He answered disdainfully, “Last week I was on this shuttle going home for college break and another man said the same thing to me. He was evangelical and asked what I thought of Jesus.” With a sinking feeling, I knew I had been one tiny part of God’s plan for reaching this young man and I’d mostly blown it by trying to sell books.
I’d forgotten that my job is to share the love of God.
We arrived at my hotel too soon to finish the important conversation and I stepped out into pouring rain to get my luggage. Rattled, I pointed to the wrong black bag, which made extra work for the driver when he had to put it back in the van. “It’s raining,” he said in an effort to help me focus. Feeling guilty for being responsible for his drenching, I gave him a $5 tip. Dripping myself, I grabbed my bags and bolted for the hotel.
I waited in a long line to find out my room wasn’t ready. “I’m wet and cold,” I pleaded. “I also have a reception at 3:30 and I need to change clothes.”
Gently, the woman asked, “Have you had lunch?” I shook my head. “Check your bags here and go have lunch. I’ll put your room first on the cleaning list and you’ll make it to your reception in plenty of time.” It was only noon. My poor body thought it was 2:00 PM and I was starving.
I’d forgotten that Denver was two hours behind Jacksonville.
I sunk down into a restaurant chair and ordered my food. Where is my computer? I wondered as I looked around. My heart stopped and my stomach dropped to my toes as I tried to remember the last time I’d had it. It isn’t like me to check my computer with a hotel. I thought. My heart started racing as I realized I didn’t even know the name of the shuttle service that had brought me to the hotel. At least my heart is beating again, was the only fleeting thought that entered my terrified brain.
Within seconds of the startling “missing computer” revelation, my publisher finally called back. “I’m sorry we were so hard to reach this week,” she said. “We’ve all been busy getting ready for this show.”
After she gave me the information I said, “This has cost me worry and time.” Instantly I felt guilty for being terse. I really liked this Godly woman and knew how hard preparing for a tradeshow booth was. Apologetically, I explained about the missing computer. I knew I was forgiven. A Christian writer herself, she instantly understood the panic of losing data from a computer. “Pray for me,” I begged. “My husband tried to back everything up last night and I wouldn’t listen to him.”
I hung up the phone and tore for the front desk, not thinking once about the newly arrived salad. I broke to the front of the long line and wildly asked, “How many bags did I check?”
“Two,” was the dreaded answer. I’d left my computer on a van that I had to idea how to find.
What do I do, I asked God.
Thanks for finally asking, I felt Him answer. Look outside.
I looked outside and the first thing I saw was a green Super Shuttle. Maybe they’ll know the name of the company that owns the white van, I thought. I raced out the hotel door to catch them before they left and almost bumped into a familiar but empty white van. Surely this has to be a different van. It’s been forty five minutes. I ran around to the other side of the van looking for a driver. As a familiar man walked toward the van, my knees went weak with relief. Why does fear travel downward? I wondered, remembering that it had started with the heart, traveled to the stomach, and ended up in the knees.
“I was about to leave,” he said, looking as frantic as I. “I didn’t know your name but was pretty sure this bag was yours. I looked all around the lobby for you. I didn’t want to leave it here if I wasn’t sure it was yours.”
“God bless you,” I said, tearfully grateful for a van driver willing to go the extra mile. My shaking hands took the computer.
As I reached in my purse to tip him, he said, “You’ve already given me a good tip.”
“You’re getting tipped again,” I insisted, pulling out the second five-dollar bill.
I’d also forgotten God was in charge.
Thank you for taking care of me even when I forget you, I whispered. I’m sorry and I’ll try to do better. I knew I was forgiven.
I called Bob and told him the story. I ended with, “Sorry about the last twenty four hours. You were right to want to back up the computer.” Again, I knew I was forgiven. There is no limit to grace from God or Godly people.