01 May 2009

My weekend in Paris

Last weekend I went to Paris. It was so last minute, but I knew it was a God thing, so I went. Here's how it all went down:

In the Vigo airport, April 23
Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
James 1:6, "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

God opened the door to go to Paris. I stepped through it, knowing it would happen. I bought my plane ticket but didn't realize that this wasn't the ticket. The payment was not confirmed; I was supposed to go to the bank to deposit a hefty amount of cash into the travel agency's account. I didn't have that much cash, and because of circumstances out of my control, my ATM card was cancelled, so I had no legal way to obtain that much cash within the next few days. I searched for other options and stooped down to making this trip happen myself. Nothing was working. I doubted. Not only did I doubt, I started to get bitter and angry at God for letting my hopes get so high then crash and burn in disappointment. Even in my bitterness, God still spoke to me, "It's not about the gift; it's about the Giver." I was looking forward to a quiet getaway in this reminiscent city, but I was focusing so much on going to Paris instead of on God. James 1:16-17, "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." I started wondering if this was all my idea. Maybe I had been greatly deceived, and it wasn't God's will for me to go to Paris. In retrospect, I was having another "Peter-walking-on-water" type life lesson. Finally, yesterday (the 22nd) when my new ATM card did NOT come in the mail, I came to the conclusion that I just wasn't going to Paris. I was filled with doubt and disappointment, but there was still a little mustard seed of hope left. While meandering through the internet and waiting for people to respond on Skype, I randomly decided to go on the Iberia (Spanish airline) website to see if flights were really that expensive. (Before when I had checked, a flight to Paris for the weekend was over 700 euro). Not one spot in my mind had any hope that there was any chance that I was going. Then, to my surprise, there was a last minute deal on a flight... I was in shock and my heart revived in joy like Lazarus rising from the dead. I booked it and had no hiccups with the payment, no need to go to the bank to deposit money like the previous flight I tried to book. I then got a hotel and started getting ready to go to Paris!! There is no one like our God. I called the other travel agency to cancel my other flight, which was even more expensive than this last minute deal one, and there was no problem, no charge to my credit card. After this amazing miracle, I felt so foolish for doubting. I even still have doubts (at the time this was written), thinking that God had given up on trying to convince me to stay in Vigo for the weekend and gave in to letting me go to Paris. I also thought that I wasn't worth all this time and effort, and that God didn't want to put so much work into doing this for me. But those are lies! The truth is that he had this flight picked out all along, he DOES want to spend a weekend with me in Paris, and he works all things together for my good! Even though there are a lot of unknowns now, I know he'll provide and lead me where I need to go. I will walk by faith.

Paris, April 23
I got to the Vigo airport no problem, but my flight to Madrid left about a half an hour late. I was so tempted to worry and fret and complain, and I confess I did a bit, but I arrived in Madrid and found my gate no problem, just as they were boarding. When I got to Paris, I didn't know where to go- NO CLUE. All I had was the hotel address. I went to wait for the RER (fast train/metro) and met 3 girls from the U.S. studying in Granada, Spain. One was from Kentucky, one from Pennsylvania, and one from Connecticut- 3 states that 3 of my roommates are from. At least I think that's what they said; I had a bad English day. I felt much more at peace to be with these 3 who didn't know where they were going either. I figured out where I had to get off (Luxembourg stop), got off, and found a magazine stand with a map about 2 steps away from the metro stop. I looked at the map, found where I was right away, found where the hotel was, God told me which direction to go, I went, and found the hotel with no problem at all. Wow, walking by faith is so much easier than looking at things with my own eyes and getting flustered. I even found a computer to use and found Rachel's hotel.

Paris Orly airport, April 25
Close Calls
Lately I've been thinking a lot about God's grace. Where would I be if not for your grace? I really don't know that I would be a Christian today if it weren't for the family I was born into, the country I live in (e.g., the U.S.), the schools that I went to, etc. God really has a divine plan and specific purpose for my life. What if I were born in India, China, Australia, or Africa or Europe, these places where Christians are the minority? Would I be worshipping another good? Thankfully, there are no "what-if's" with God. He knows what He's doing, and He works all things together for my good. I have had reality checks of God's grace before and during (and probably after) this Paris trip.
First, I already wrote about the flight/credit card situation. This whole time I have had no problem being without cash or an ATM card. Second, during the tour with Rachel and the rest of the MSUM group, I was supposed to just blend in and make sure their stubborn British bus driver, Phil, didn't notice me because he could be fined for having extra people on the coach bus that weren't on the official list of group members that he had. All the other MSUM people were on that list, but I just hopped on board for a couple days. By accident he found out I wasn't with the group, but God definitely poured out favor, and Phil took a great liking to me and had no problem that I had illegally been on the bus...! Then tonight with the metro to the airport... I reluctantly bought my RER/metro/train ticket to the airport ahead of time when a person was working at the window so I could pay with my credit card and get directions to the airport (I had to change metro lines 3 times). If I had waited until the moment I was leaving for the airport, I would have had to use the machines to buy my ticket, but those machines did not accept my credit card. I left for the metro around 9:30 pm. The last train from the edge of the city center (stop Antony) to Orly airport was at 11 pm; I didn't not realize this at the time I had left. Unfortunately, I took 2 wrong connecting trains, had to wait for the opposite train returning to the previous stops, then find the right trains. I wanted to fear, I wanted to cry, I wanted to give up and take a taxi, which wouldn't have worked anyway because I didn't have any cash. Joshua 1:9- I was reminded by God time and time again of this passage. Funny it is how I couldn't have cash on this trip. I couldn't rely on money/resources; I couldn't even rely on my credit card because I wasn't able to use it at some places. I could only rely on God. I finally got to Antony, the stop where I had to get off and take the special line to the airport. Again, I didn't realize that the last RER to Orly left at 11 pm until I got to the platform. I looked at the sign- "Last train- 23:00." I looked at the time- 23:03. These metros are on time. I thought I missed it; I thought I missed the train. I was preparing myself to brave through it all, go out into the dark city, and find a book a hotel in my much-less-than-perfect French. But I guess the Holy Spirit kept pushing me toward that RER to the Orly. I looked up, it was still there with its doors wide open. Shocked, I fumbled to get my ticket, got through the gate, and ran into the car. It was the last train until 6 am, and my flight leaves at 6:50. Thank you, Lord. You pulled through for me just in time. Thank you.

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