Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Free Checked Bags!

Great concept. Grateful patrons. Unfortunately, "free checked bags" does not necessarily equal "bags checked free from trouble"!

Frank and I love to travel. We also love to preach. So to be able to travel in order to preach and teach? Well, it just doesn't get any better than that for us.

When you travel, you know you will be without certain things. You'll have to manage:
  • without your favorite coffee cup
  • without your own bed
  • without your normal routine
  • without your remote control! (Threw that one in for the fellas.)
Well the list could go on and on but you get the idea.

This past weekend, we were to speak for a couple's retreat in NC. The added bonus? Our hosts for this event were our dear friends and newly acquired family, Steve and Becky Smith. What Joy!

Of course, our first love is serving as pastors of Garden Grove Church in Winter Haven, FL! This precious congregation is our calling.

But they graciously send us out about once a month to preach other places. And as long as we always find our way home, it works.

So back to the free checked bags.

When you travel frequently, it's best to approach each trip with the savvy of a hurricane preparedness coach.

Frank went so far as to long ago make it a hard and fast rule, "ALWAYS keep your sermon notes in the carry on bag! If it's pertinent to the message, keep it on your person at all times!"

So when we finally reached Norfolk, VA (the closest airport to the Smith's home in Manteo, NC) we didn't panic at the news that our second "free checked bag" had not arrived with us.

Inconvenient, yes. But not insurmountable.

We left the Smith's address with the apologetic attendant and went on our merry way. Fully confident that the wayward bag would be delivered to our door shortly.

That's how it's supposed to work!

We enjoyed the drive to Manteo with the Smiths. We relished every moment of touring their new home, reconnecting with Sarah, laughing together, eating Becky's beautifully prepared meal.

We even learned that the newlyweds Hoggard, (Webb and Amanda) would be at the retreat. Better all the time!

But shortly after dinner, Frank became engaged in the battle to reclaim our lost bag. This included but was not limited to: EIGHT phone calls; TEN different representatives; TWO separate agencies; FIVE hours; and ONE very perturbed pastor!

Each conversation left him with new and more disturbing information about the whereabouts and projected delivery time of our suitcase.

So Steve, Becky and Sarah jumped into action. In the midst of their own packing and preparation for our 9 AM departure time, they scurried around locating extra toiletries, hair brushes and a blow dryer. (That Becky Smith is the Hostess with the Mostest!)

Frank and I collapsed into bed; delighted to find pillows of the non-lumpy variety. And promptly fell asleep.

However, the airline wasn't resting.

At MIDNIGHT our phone rang. Frank fumbled around, found the phone and manged to say hello. An overly cheerful agent announced, "Mr. Hawley, we've located your luggage. We'll be happy to deliver it to you...................the day after tomorrow."

"That's great," he mumbled. "But we'll be back in FL by then so just keep it at the airport!" My first thought? "Thank heavens you can wear jeans several times before they have to be washed."

Here's another travel truth we've learned: The difficulty of the trip is directly proportionate to miracles associated with the ministry time.

So our part is to stay calm! Ride the wave of whatever challenges are thrown our way. And watch for the miracles to come.

Friday morning, we left for the retreat equipped with borrowed toiletries and other essentials of life. No time for frustration, fuming or even fussing. We fully expected an incredible marriage retreat!

Miraculously, our little lost bag found its way to us about an hour later.

And the retreat itself? True to form - amazing! Twenty couples with twenty different life-stories. Twenty couples that went home knowing their marriages are worth fighting for!

Frank and I were able to fly back in to Orlando late Saturday night without any extra baggage of guilt or embarrassment. We had ridden the waves of trouble without yelling, demanding or even belittling the misinformed baggage agents.

And the ministry miracles were waiting, just beyond the difficulty.

Some things it's good to be without!


  1. Brings back memories of the one time my luggage didn't arrive with me! I was being flown to FL to surprise my boyfriend who was on leave from the military AND to meet his parents. Knowing I would be meeting his mother at the airport, I dressed "appropriately" for the meeting in a skirt, blouse, nylons, heels...had to stay in that get up for way too long!


  2. Sheri,

    You and Frank were the very epitome of grace under pressure and we were honored to weather the inconveniences of the weekend with you. Our people are still talking about how much they received from your teaching at the retreat.