May 25, 2012

The Story of Ted's Homecoming

Wednesday, May 16, turned out to be the day God chose for Ted to come HOME!  The original information we had was that Ted would arrive in Dayton on Thursday morning, May 17.  While we were delighted that he would be coming home sooner, that meant some changes in our plans!

Back on the home front, the family went into a flurry of activity!  Unbeknownst to Ted, his mom had made plans to fly out in order to be here to welcome him at the airport.  However, her original flight was scheduled to land late Wednesday night--which meant she would have missed his arrival!  Thankfully, she was able to change her flight and left Denver late Tuesday night, arriving in Dayton Wednesday morning.  Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, my dad and brother began the drive to Ohio late Tuesday night after Dad got off work.

The only information we had to go on when we were frantically making calls and changing our plans on Tuesday was that Ted was supposed to arrive in Indianapolis on Wednesday around lunchtime.  He planned to call us once he had the final flight details, but we assumed that he would go through customs and hop on a flight to Dayton from there.

Since Dad and John would be driving east on I-70, I asked Mom (who was here in Ohio with us) if she thought the guys could pick Rhonda up from the airport, since it is right off the freeway, on their way here.  When Mom and Dad talked on the phone, Dad agreed that would be a simple matter, and so it was settled...

Wednesday morning I was running around like a crazy woman!  I heard the phone ring while I was cleaning the bathroom, but since I wasn't expecting Ted to land in Indy until lunchtime, I didn't bother rushing, and Mom answered it first.  I heard her say, "Oh, you're at the airport?  Well, your mom is there now, too!"

ACK!  That part was supposed to be a surprise!!  Apparently Mom didn't realize that, though!  "NOOO!" I called out.  "DON'T TELL HIM!"  But it was too late.  I got on the phone and learned that Ted was about to go through customs and that he would call me back once he had information about his arrival in Dayton.

Meanwhile, Rhonda had arrived in Dayton.  She and my dad had connected by cell phone, and she was waiting for him to pick her up.  When I talked with her to let her know Ted had arrived in Indianapolis, she was watching for my dad's minivan but not finding it.  When she mentioned something about Dad being on a different level, I began wondering...anyone who's been through Dayton knows it's a small airport, and everything is on the same level!  I called Dad, and...sure enough...he was driving around the Indianapolis airport looking for Rhonda!  Somehow the tiny little detail of WHICH airport didn't get communicated clearly!

What a comedy of errors the morning was turning out to be!  Since Dad and John were still so far out, I just hopped in the Suburban and drove to pick up Rhonda myself, figuring maybe I just needed to get out of the house before I went stark raving mad!  A detour along the way (off I-75, of course) had me driving all over downtown, laughing at the craziness we were experiencing on the most exciting day of our year.  I was so glad none of this was a surprise to God...and all I could do was pray that Ted's actual arrival would be much less traumatic than the morning had been.

So, in the midst of all this chaos, Ted got his final flight arrangements--to Atlanta and then to Dayton.  If it weren't for the fact that he was transporting weapons, I would have driven to Indianapolis myself to get him (for that matter, Dad and John could have picked him up, LOL), but we weren't allowed to carry the weapons that far in a vehicle.  And...surprisingly, there are NO direct flights from Indy to Dayton.  So, Ted had to wait another 8 hours or so before actually getting home.

The good news, though, was that it allowed his crazy family a chance to get our ducks in a row before going to greet him at the airport!  Those who had traveled all night were able to get naps here at the house, and I was able to get word to local friends about the details for those who wanted to meet us at the airport.

Rhonda rode with the kids and me to get to the airport early enough to get special passes to go back and meet Ted at the gate.  My friend Becky from church had graciously agreed to be our photographer for the special occasion, so she went back with us as well.  I was so glad she came!  It was fun to just be caught up in the moment and not have to worry about trying to capture those moments for later.  You can see some of Becky's beautiful work in the photos in this post!

The kids had made signs, and we found flags at the dollar store that were actually MADE IN THE U.S.A. to wave.  Charis made a sign for Rhonda to hold since she was traveling all night. :-)

Oh, it was so fun to watch the kids!  Lucan was so excited at seeing the airplane actually land!  In fact, he nearly didn't leave the window because he wanted to see the plane so badly.  The rest of us were as waiting eagerly at the end of the walkway, straining to catch a glimpse of our tall, handsome airman!

Needless to say, Ted was accosted as soon as the kids saw him!

The applause from all the people in the airport was overwhelming and brought me to tears--if I weren't already that way from the emotion of the moment.

Ted was greeted by more enthusiastic family and friends as we walked to baggage claim.  Both my parents, my brother John, and some friends from church were there as well, holding flags and signs and ready to welcome their hero!

We drove from the airport to base to drop off Ted's weapons.  While Ted was inside the building, I called the PR gal from Chick-Fil-A, with whom I had been in touch with regarding a welcome-home lunch/dinner for Ted.  I had asked him where he wanted to eat when he arrived, thinking it would be easier to go out to eat than come home and fix a meal.  When he said Chick-Fil-A was fine with him, I thought of my friend Stefanie, whose husband had said the same thing when he returned from his year in Afghanistan.  She told me she had talked with the manager of CFA, who set up a nice welcome-home dinner for them, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to talk with them.  Wendy was very sweet and enthusiastic about helping us.

So, when we arrived at CFA, not only was there a section of the restaurant reserved for us, there were also friends (and strangers!) clapping and cheering and welcoming Ted home!

The folks at CFA were so kind.  They gave EVERYONE in our family (including our parents and my brother) a free meal!  And there were stuffed cows and balloons for everyone, to the delight of the children.  Since Ted landed right at the time the AWANA closing ceremonies were starting at church, we missed attending the service, but friends dropped by afterward to say hello and shake Ted's hand (and have some ice cream!).

All in all, it was a wonderful, special, extremely memorable day for our family!  We are so thankful for God's grace, for His tangible presence in our lives during a long and difficult year.  Without Him, we would not have even made it through the year, let alone come through even stronger in our faith and more confident of His good purposes.  What a blessing to look back and see the growth in each and every one of us, the work of HIS Holy Spirit!  What a blessing to have had such dear friends and family praying us through this journey!  We have learned to appreciate the Body of Christ more than ever before.  Thank you, dear friends, for sharing this journey with us.  If anyone has been blessed or encouraged by our family at all over the course of the deployment, it was worth every moment.

To God be the glory--great things HE has done!

May 15, 2012

The Wait Is Almost Over! has been speeding by since I last posted, and while our days have been anything but boring, I simply haven't had time to update this blog.  And frankly, I don't really have time now...but for those who don't yet know, I wanted to say that...




This is over a week earlier than we anticipated getting to welcome him home.  I'm overwhelmed with thankfulness and the desire to spin in circles while cleaning my house.

I think I'll settle for being thankful.

And maybe a little bit of circle spinning. :-)