While some people were testing their bodies and mental fortitude by running the New York Marathon on Sunday, I was having my own stretching and uncomfortable experience. And I didn’t even get a medal. I did get a considerable sum of Delta Dollars, though. I’ll take that.

God opened up doors through gracious family friends for our family to fly back East for the wedding of one my dearest friends. We decided, in typical Joseph fashion, to make an ordeal out of it by visiting everyone we haven’t seen in the past 21/2 years in the Carolinas. It was an awesome whirlwind of a week, catching up with people we love, watching our kids reconnect with some of their first and lasting best buddies, and reveling in the Fall weather. It even snowed while we were there! Our hearts were full, but our tanks were empty as we headed to the Charlotte airport on Sunday morning.

drew copewith  jackson at wedding

This is where my phlying (read: flying with Phinny) experience began. In some catastrophic error the Delta powers that be had overbooked our flight from Atlanta to San Diego by 17 people. That’s right, 17. In an effort to tease already-tired and homesick travelers into staying even longer in the stuffy, germ-filled airport, the flight attendants began offering vouchers, auction-style. Before I knew it, I was standing in a line with a cranky Phinny, volunteering to stay overnight in Atlanta with visions of a free trip to family Christmas dancing in my head.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think to have G’Joe stay back with Phin while me and the bigs flew to get back to school. Maybe I was subconsciously thinking “Phin is exhausted, he’ll fall right to sleep. I’ll get put up in a four-star hotel for free; I’ll take a long bath, catch up on reading, and awake refreshed and ready to tackle a four-hour flight with a squirmy 18-month old.” Either way, it was me standing there in the airport with a screaming baby while the plane took off for San Diego.


My optimism began to wear off as we waited for the Country Inn and Suites shuttle to whisk us away to a not-so-4-star hotel. Needless to say, there were no baths and no reading. Mostly just sleeping in our clothes. While Phin did not appreciate the grilled cheese the hotel had to offer us for a meal the night before, he was more than thrilled to find a magical Fruit Loop machine at the breakfast buffet. He walked like a royal prince down the stained hallway, holding his cup of never-ending Fruit Loops.

fruit loops

We were riding high on the shuttle bus back to the airport, with fruit loops in hand and a voucher for some free coffee. “I’ve got this. It’ll be over before we know it” was looping in my head as we played in the terminal for 3 hours.

Hopes were shattered as we sat down next to professionals who looked less-than-happy to have the only toddler on the plane sitting next to them. I scanned the seats for gracious grins or the reassuring looks of parents who remember flying with toddlers all too well. Nothing.

I will spare you the gruesome details, but I’ll hit the low points. Diarrhea diapers with no changing tables in the linen closets they call bathrooms. A promising nap that was truncated by friendly service announcements. All-out back bending flailing because 4 hours is just too long to read Happy Baby and play play-dough. Lots of judgmental looks accompanied by profuse sweating on my part.

A few irrational thoughts may or may not have crossed my mind, like what happens if I pull the emergency exit lever mid-flight or maybe Bill Walton (who was indeed on the plane in 1st class) will trade seats with me so I can get a free glass of wine and a bigger seat. But at the end of the day, the only thing that kept me semi-peaceful and sane was the realization of God’s distinct and tangible nearness to me. Who knew that a solo-flight with an antsy toddler would do so much to draw me into a deeper dependence on God and a thriving prayer life? Only the hymn My Jesus I Love Thee could calm both me and Phinny down.  While singing the hymn meant peace for me, it also meant more rightfully judgmental stares for my singing.

bill walton

I thought we were getting travel vouchers out of this deal. But I ended up with two additional benefits: a greatly increased thankfulness for God’s sustaining grace and an entrepreneurial idea worth its weight in gold. Disney airlines. Motto: Check your judgement at the gate! Think free wine for parents in a parents-only section. Fusball and Dollhouse tray-tables, characters serving organic, sugar-free juice. Free Disney cartoons all day long. Someone needs to get on that. Just make sure you give me some royalties, otherwise we will pulling this voucher trick again.

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