With eager anticipation, I rushed to the airport to depart for my trip, a reunion with good friends. But things did not go as planned.
In seconds, minutes, hours, all my excitement plummeted into disappointment. My flight was delayed. I was rescheduled onto a different flight. I missed my connection anyway. I was stranded in a foreign city. Customer service was not helpful. My hotel was expensive. My late dinner grew cold because I was too busy fighting the vending machine that ate my dollar.
But the next morning, the sun shined. Finally…
S.H.E. reunion…! It had been over a year since I last saw Hsiao. As she picked me up at the airport, our memories began to flood my mind. How we used to get lost..er.. explore our city together. How we’d walk in the cold till our toes froze. How we’d slurp steaming ramen noodles to keep warm. How we’d laugh, cook, and eat, and laugh some more. I couldn’t wait to see Esther either…how we’d read our Bible till we were full. How we’d lament and rejoice over relationships. How we’d share good books, comforting songs, and silly videos.
Then I learned that Esther was ill, spending the morning seeing her doctor. Oh no! Nothing was going right.
However, she was a trooper, determined to overcome her illness. We proceeded with our plans. Visiting one bridal salon after another, Hsiao tried on gown after gown in search of “the one.” Esther and I would nod, smile, or shake our heads. “Nope, that’s not it.” The search continued.
In between dress fittings we enjoyed kimbap and ddukbokki at a Korean cafe, gulping warm vegetable broth from pyrex measuring cups (strange, yet functional) and relaxed at a nearby Korean bakery, sipping tea and coffee between bites of traditional, chewy, Korean rice cakes. We reminisced over proposals, the meaning of marriage, wedding expectations, failures, and disappointments. In the middle of the cafe, there stood a tree with lights in it, and it reminded me so much of the Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
“Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it…It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it…” – Anne Dillard
In the evening we dined on Cuban food in the company of old/new colleagues and friends, before returning home and lounging around, half wedding planning, half rambling about the days events or wedding festivities to come.
On Sunday morning, I joined Esther, Jacob, her parents, and Halmoni for church at OpenTable. Suddenly, God spoke to me, “do you not see how much I love you?”
Realizing the depth of my bitterness, I asked God to fill me up with His Spirit, that I would learn to praise Him no matter my circumstances. I was humbled in thousands of ways that morning. Seeing Esther’s parents put their arms around her to pray for her. *sigh* Hearing Esther worship before the Lord despite how miserable she felt *sigh* Watching the ILikeAdoptionVideo and hearing such peace in the voice of the boy without arms *sigh* The nonstop tears Jacob shed on stage, reflecting upon the acceptance we have in Christ *sigh* Singing How He Loves, over and over, finding great freedom and redemption in this promise that God would love a wretched person like me.
After church, lunch, and more dress fittings, we resettled at another cozy Korean bakery, cherishing our last moments together before my departure.
In the end, all the difficulties I endured to fly down for such a brief visit.. they were all worth it. Because I was embraced by my sisters, blessed to be apart of such a special time in my friend’s lives, and surrounded by God’s grace for me.
~ ~ ~
Currently listening: How He Loves – David Crowder Band
There you have it Esther, my Atlanta recap. =P Have a most wonderful birthday, I miss you and wish I could celebrate with you!