Monday, October 09, 2006

A Conference & Some Luggage

It has been insanity. I know we all say that. Our lives are all very busy nowadays. I feel like since I got back from Africa I haven't had a chance to catch my breath.

My mind is still spinning from that and so much more has been thrown on top. This past week we flew down to Atlanta for the yearly Catalyst Leadership Conference. I am always blown away by the production of the event, the quality of all of the speakers, the fun, the music, and just the overall learning. For example, the first day of the event is kicked off with a hot air balloon, a red carpet and breakdancers. To honor one of the British speakers, in walk several British flag-bearers, and men on horseback. Jeff Foxworthy shows up. Just for fun, we have the Guiness Book of World records come to officiate the world's largest pillow fight and then the national dodgeball champions come in for a round of dodgeball. And then there are the speakers. And the worship time.

Every year we look forward to going and then talk about it for the rest of the year. I read through all my notes a few more times. Trying to remember what seemed most important to me. But honestly, the biggest event at the conference had nothing to do with the conference.

When we flew into Atlanta, I went to the rental car counter to get all the paperwork taken care of for our vehicle. Then we all trooped out to the shuttle to go pick it up. When we got into the lot, I headed off to the minivan as I was in charge of that part and I assumed that someone was taking care of my luggage. Not the best assumption I have every made. One should never assume anything.

Needless to say, when we arrived at our hotel 45 minutes later and unloaded everything, I discovered that my luggage was not in the van. I first cried and then immediately called the rental place. They called each of their shuttle drivers and no one had any luggage. Later that evening I called again to see if another passenger had called to say they had luggage that didn't belong to them. Meanwhile I ran out to the store to get the necessities, all the while so sad for the things I had lost. In my head I reminded myself over and over, "they are just things, it doesn't matter" but I was still so frustrated. Not the end of the world, but sad. Sigh.

The next day I put it out of my mind during the conference. I refused to let it ruin or impair any of the time I had to learn and love. I called the rental place again and heard the same message, "No one has called to turn in any luggage." I was giving up any hope.

My last option was to call again and ask for the phone number of the people who got off the shuttle after we did. They had to have accidentally picked up my bag. I knew the time and the exact parking spot they had their rental in. And we also knew that they were at the conference with us because we had heard them mention it on the shuttle.

It was Friday. The last day of the conference and my last chance to find my luggage before we left for home. After one of the sessions, I stepped outside to stand in line for a book signing. I walked out the door, past the heaping trash cans and stopped short. "Do I?" I turned to the three men standing by the door.

"Excuse me, but did you ride the Dollar Rental shuttle?"
"Are you missing your luggage?!"

They asked me my name and I started to cry. All over these wonderful people. I just happened to think that perhaps one of them looked familiar and they indeed did.

They went right away to get my bag from their hotel and I could not express my joy. I cried several more times that day. In thankfulness. In relief.

I know, I know that was just a bag of inconsequential items. And every time I prayed that it would return, I also prayed that I would have a heart of peace if it did not. My life will continue without those clothes or whatever, but the gratitude I felt on receiving them back to me was overwhelming. That God would see fit to let me have my 'things' back. To show me He does actually care about my little silly problems. Nothing I did brought that bag back to me. In fact, while I was standing with them, one of the guys said, "I was just wondering why we were standing here by the trash cans rather than by a tree or something!" To which I replied, "You were here so that I could find you!"


Jean said...

An amazing God moment. And what a sense of humor He has for you to get your luggage back b/c of guys standing by a trash can. :)

anne said...

I know! I still laugh about it. His goodness in something so unimportant is absolutely hysterical!

heather said...

i read all the way through this story even though i was pretty much there - such a good story. and you were such a trooper about it! much more dignified than i would have been. :)

anne said...

It's good to have you say that, my head I kept telling myself to quit whining about it! :)

Kris said...

What a great story! It is way too easy to have a dependance on STUFF. I struggle with that every day. Glad everything turned out OK!

Carbon said...

I'm so glad your luggage found it's way back to you!

Even though it's stuff, it's still yours. I tend to always pack my best/favorite clothes so that's why it's hard. You'd be going home to the "left over" clothes ;-)

anne said...

Maki, you are totally right!!! I even had a few brand new things w/ tags still on. Just stabbed me right in the heart! :)