A Second Journey: Congressmen, Consulates, and Changing Plans

Alert: This is quite a long post.  Also, Please forgive my rather scattered writing style… especially near the end.  I can’t seem to properly communicate exactly what I would like to, but hopefully my feeble words will do some justice to the concept of what I’m trying to say, if not every detail.

No, unfortunately I am not writing to tell you that I have arrived safely in the land of the Scots.  Despite the email I received Tuesday morning informing me that my visa would be sent out within 24 hours (which would mean that I should have received it Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday at the very latest), it never showed up, and I spent all of Friday afternoon trying to figure out where on Earth it was and how I could get it.  Thanks to the advice of my clever aunt, I was able to get in contact with the consulate through my congressman, or rather through my congressman’s case manager that deals with this sort of situation.  (I know, isn’t my aunt awesome?  How did she even know that was a thing?)

So, we chatted, I explained the circumstances, he sent me a form to sign, I replied with the signed document and further explanation, and he passed it along to the consulate.  Their first response, which he forwarded to me, was extremely disheartening.  My visa had not yet even been dispatched, and they could not be certain when it might be—probably sometime in the next week.  Alarmed, I sent two more emails of a rather more urgent nature.  By this time, it was getting quite late and we had been forced to call US Airways and reschedule my flight.  Unsure when my visa would come, we chose the latest departure date possible within the confines of Oleta’s valid paperwork, Wednesday the 27th.  With two day priority shipping, my visa would need to be sent out THAT FRIDAY to arrive on time, since Monday was memorial day.  I couldn’t help imagining a repeat of the last three days, checking the mail over and over only to discover Wednesday that it hadn’t arrived, and be forced to cancel the trip all together.

To my great relief though, shortly before 7 Pm that night, my congressman’s case manager replied saying my visa had now been placed in the mail, and Saturday, I got a text from my Dad saying we’d received it already!  Praise God!

Needless to say, Friday was a bit emotionally taxing.  I spent most of it worrying, and the rest of it praying.  I was frustrated with myself—if only I had done something different, surely I could have avoided this situation.  For much of the day, I was utterly uncertain what to do, and it made absolutely no sense to me that not getting my visa and missing my flight could possibly be part of God’s plan.  I knew that I should have faith, but suddenly I wasn’t so sure I knew what that meant.  I don’t mean faith in Christ’s salvation, or in the person of God, but small scale faith, the every day sort of faith.

Was having faith being positive of a certain desirable outcome based on belief in God, or was it trusting that any outcome was under God’s control, whether seemingly desirable or not?  I searched for an answer in God’s word, and found these verses.

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Okay, I thought, so I’m doing the right thing by reading the Bible at least.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

If it was impossible to please God without faith, that must mean He desires his  servants to have faith in Him in all situations, no matter what the outcome.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

And the outcome isn’t always what I might expect.  If I am not to “lean on my own understanding”, then my idea of an ideal situation won’t always match with God’s.  If I am to acknowledge Him in all my ways, trust, not resignation, is what is required for every happenstance, whether apparently positive or negative.  No matter what the outcome, He will make straight my path, which means that I must have faith that He has a plan, and that His plan is good.

It sounds trivial and ridiculous now.  Of course I knew these things, and yet, in that moment, I didn’t, and that’s all that seemed to matter.  I realize now that however many times I have come into contact with the meaning of everyday faith, however many times God has revealed to me His faithfulness, it has often been after the fact.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t been a Christian a very long time, but I was so used to looking at situations in retrospect.  Of course, God had a plan for my blindness, for every family drama, for every one of my sins and mess ups.  With years or months or weeks to separate me from any such event, it’s easy to see his hand at work.  It’s harder to recognize in the midst of it all.  I’ve always known that, but now I think I’m starting to truly understand.

so of course, He has a plan  now, and maybe part of it is teaching me to rely more on Him.  Whatever it is, I’m thankful.  I will be leaving for Scotland tomorrow, and can’t wait to discover what other things He has in store for me to learn there.

Ponderings With Oleta Renee: Saying Yes to Less Stress

Shea is worried about her visa, and it’s proving very distracting for her.  She was too busy Thursday morning sending an email to the British consulate to give me breakfast at the proper time… (And for your future reference, when stress gets the best of breakfast, it’s become much too serious and there must be an intervention… or at least some kibble).  In any case, while I was waiting for my food, I thought I’d explore this topic of stress a bit further.

Being a guide dog can be stressful.  I’ve got a lot to worry about.  Why?  Because the entire success of my job depends on my ability to keep my mom alive and uninjured on a daily basis.  That’s a big responsibility!

And the thing is, it’s not like we’re dancing through fields of daisies every day kind of protection.  It’s like, “there is a giant bus coming straight for us and I have to get us out of the way now!” kind of protection.  Yeah!  And you thought you had worries!

Still, traffic checks have been so drilled into me that I deal with those situations with pure instinct.  I don’t have time to worry.  It’s a split second decision to figure out how to keep us breathing, and whatever that looks like, I do it.  There are other aspects of my life and career that worry me more.  It’s those times when Mom is on the floor sobbing hysterically about the horrors of sophomore year (and they are horrifying.  We’ll tell you about them sometime), or when she is on the floor comforting someone else sobbing hysterically about the horrors of sophomore year, or when she ends up in the hospital for two and a half days for emergency surgery (yep, that happened)

On a slightly less catastrophic scale though, there are those moments when Shea and I are traveling in an unfamiliar area, and Shea gives me confusing directions (because she doesn’t know where she’s going.  If she would just let me take the leash I’d be where we needed to go in no time)… or when she tells me to find the piano in a room full of people watching us (for juries and other performances.  Seriously, you have no idea how much pressure that is).

Of course, in all of those situations, it’s not just me that’s worried… it’s Shea as well, and with a relationship as close as our’s, it’s a given that her emotions are my emotions, and vice versa.  That’s two times the stress, folks.  In dog therapy circles that’s called “unhealthy”.

But there is Good News.  Amidst all this worry, there is a God, a sovereign King, the ultimate pack leader who cares deeply about us, and our stress levels.  In the book of Psalms (Psalm 55:22) God’s Word tells us to “Cast your burden on the Lord , and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

In First Peter 5:6-7, we are reminded to, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Whether you are guiding your blind owner on a busy city street, overwhelmed with school work, fretting for a loved-one in the hospital, performing on a stage, waiting for a decision on a visa application that will decide the fate of your mission trip, your worries have not gone unnoticed.  God knows our troubles, and He wants us to place them in his hands, because He loves us.  He does not want us to be burdened with the cares of the Earth, but focussed on the joys of Heaven.

So God’s asking us to trust Him.  He wants to bless us with the gift of less stress… and I guess it’s time we said yes.