That Time When Our Passports Were Expired

12:54 PMHeather

At last!  The day had come for the kids and I to leave for our much anticipated trip to see family in Canada.  My husband would join us at the end of the week and then we'd all head off to family camp at Moose Lake Gospel Camp.  This was our third trip there and we'd been hoping and planning to go since our trip the previous July.

Chris had taken the day off to help get me and the kids out the door, so he was handling some work stuff while I logged on to my lap top to check us in for the flight.  I'd found a killer deal -- $300 round trip tickets each -- to Calgary.  I checked myself in through WestJet and then went to check my boys and girl in.  

I've never felt such a moment of panic in my life.  Because as I typed in Collin's passport number and expiration date, a dread filled me from top to bottom.

Collin's passport was expired.  By six months.  Which meant Cooper's was, as well.  

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?  I'd printed off packing lists for my kids, lined up a dog and house sitter, prepared curriculum and printed hand-outs for my 5 days of teaching sessions at family camp.  But, I never checked their passports?  In between the churning of my stomach, I had a moment of clarity to realize it was because I had my passport renewed the same year as the boys, and mine was valid for five more years.

Oh.  I guess I forgot that passports for minors are only valid for five years instead of ten.  

I quietly alerted my husband, talking in shushed tones, lest I alert the very excited kids.  What were we going to do?  Our flight was to depart in 5 hours.  

What ensued was a frantic working of two laptops and two cell phones with calls and computer searches to the airline, the local passport office, the regional passport office, and Immigration services.  At one point, we thought our problem was solved.  Chris learned that you could enter Canada with only birth certificates if the child was 15 or under.

PERFECT.  Collin is 15.

OOPS.  Scratch that.  WestJet said that was only true if you are driving across the border.  

I quickly texted my uncle in Canada and asked him to rally the prayer troops.  Then, I texted my best friend to pray but asked her not to tell her kids.  Lest they tell MY kids before I had the chance.  My kids were going to kill me.  I had to work myself into facing them with the news.

I was floored by their response.  The boys were quick to HUG ME (as I'm nominating myself for Mother of the Year LOSER Award) and then offer to pray and trust that God had this all worked out. Um, excuse me?  Who is the adult in this situation? 

While Chris tried to get us an emergency appointment with the regional passport office, I literally lay prostrate on the floor of my bedroom.  

"Okay, God.  I'm your feet.  I believe you want us to go to Canada.  I believe you've given me lessons to teach the ladies at family camp about Sabbath living and learning to sit at your feet.  I believe you want our family to spend time with the extended family and friends.  Help me belief you can accomplish this somehow.  Help me not to count the costs as we have no budget left.  Fix this.  Somehow." 

Cooper walked in, "Mom!  What are you doing?"

I replied, through muffled sounds near the carpet, "Son, I'm pleading with my Father!"

My logical husband had us praying over each step.  First, what should we do?  Because our emergency passport appointment was two days away.  We got conflicting information about showing up without an appointment.  Even if we could go the appointment on Wednesday and postpone our flight to maybe fly with Chris on Friday--there was surely no way to get the passports in 48 hours?  Should we try to fly into northern Montana and drive across the border with birth certificates?  What would that cost?  Should the kids and I just cancel and forfeit the airfare and send my curriculum to my cousin to teach?  

While all these possibilities swirled around us, Chris made a declaration.  I was glad for his ability to reason because I was praying, crying, and trying to think all at the same time.  The kids were amazingly calm.  The decision was to just show up in the Dallas passport office and see what happened.  

One small glitch.  We couldn't find Cooper's birth certificate.  Oh, for the love.  Are you kidding me?  I never lose things (except for apparently Cooper's birth certificate and the ability to check passport expiration dates).  Meanwhile, the clock was ticking.  We threw on clothes and finished packing our bags--just in case?  Chris advised us to do this...I wasn't sure if I'd end up throwing the kids in the van and driving all the way to Canada myself.

We all five left the house for the bank to check the safety deposit box.  Our frenzy only seemed to make everything move in slow motion.

Very slow motion.  Every red light.  Every delay getting there.  Then, endless waiting in the car while Chris ran in to get the birth certificate.  

Except it wasn't there.  We called the city office about getting a new birth certificate while we drove home to look ONE MORE TIME.  Looked like we might be stopping at the courthouse before we drove to Dallas which would get us there approximately in the middle of the lunch hour.

Great.  Just great.  Ever have one of those days?  Okay, kids, pray that we find this paper!

Stop at the house.  Chris and I run in, checking two different places.  VOILE.  There is it.  In the file I'd already checked three times.  Stuck between two pieces of paper. 

Birth certificate in hand, we jumped in the van, said a quick prayer of thanks for that baby step, and then literally began praying out loud for a passport agent that would have mercy and for mountains to be moved and for a new flight--because that 3 pm flight time was rapidly approaching.

We parked in the huge parking garage next to the massive federal building in downtown Dallas and marched/ran in through the metal detectors and security.  Oh.  OOPS.  Passport.  That would mean passport photos?

Before we could even finish our rapid sentences to each other about that problem, the security guard directed us down the hall to the office where they take photos before we could head up to the eleventh floor for the passport office. Chris and Caris went on to the passport office while I took the boys for photos.

Um, call me crazy, but I've never seen a passport photo office that doubles as the snack shop for the entire federal building?  Then again, I felt rather crazy that day anyway.  And whose to say our efficient our government operations are?  So we waited.  For what felt like an eternity of federal employees hopping up on soda and potato chips for their lunch.  Finally, our turn and the photos were taken.  Then more waiting while people buy their snacks. Did I mention that these clerks/passport photographers seemed to want to be anywhere else but there?

Finally, the photos are handed to me and the boys and we speed walked to catch up with Chris and our daughter up in the passport office.  

Here's the scene. Chris was told we can't be helped until everyone with appointments is helped.  The five of us are spread in two rows, me crying periodically, Chris working his phone to find a flight into Montana so we can drive, Cooper working his phone to find any other flight and texting with praying friends, Collin sitting chill, and Caris reading a book.  Every time the line disappears and Chris stands up, more people arrive for their appointment.

This went on for approximately FOREVER.  The shift changed and new personnel arrive.  It was then about 90 minutes before our flight.  Chris had tried to call the airline to see about alternate flights...and then after about an hour of hold and being passed around, the call dropped.  So, he was sitting there, sorta zoned out.

Suddenly, Chris looks at me and says, "That's our agent.  That's who is going to help us.  I feel it." In a sudden lull in the line, he makes his move.  He talks quietly with the lady and then calls for the boys.  And then he motions for me to join him.

I'm standing there, tears rolling down my face, and that angel of a passport agent looks at me and says, "Mama, don't cry!  You're going to Canada.  I don't think you'll make that 3 pm flight.  But I can get you out of this office today with passports in hand." I wanted to hug her and kiss her cheek and make her part of the family!

She processes our initial papers and asks for a credit card.  I hear an amount vaguely mentioned and at this point, I was sort-of like Budget-Shumdget.

While they are processing the passports, the family went to get food while I worked the phones again with the airlines. No easy task.  I'll spare you the details, but eventually, we managed to book tickets through WestJet's supervisor on another airline that would leave five hours later than we'd intended to go.

My deep sigh of relief while I waited for my family was mixed with a bit of panic about the money.  We are living on a budget, people.  We work for non-profits.  We don't have wiggle room.  And I'm sorta very much learning to release my anxiety and unbelief about God's financial provision.  It's an ongoing process.  I come by my money compulsions naturally.  It's in the DNA. It's a hard fought battle, and these days, it's sorta moment by moment again.

Then, BAM.  God seemed to turn my thoughts to the fifth day of my teaching on Sabbath living. The part where we would talk about Mary being willing to pour out the most costly offering she has because she knew Jesus was of more worth.  The part that echoes a sermon from my pastor on Matthew 13:44-46.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Oh, sure.  Here I was, scrambling to get to Canada to teach the very thing that was challenging me personally.  OUCH.  

You see, these two men and Mary--what they all had in common was that they had excellent assessment skills, as my pastor preached.  They knew that the value of gaining Christ was worth all they had to give.  The gain of that treasure far exceeded the monetary or temporary cost.

They had found the thing of greatest value.  And then they knew that nothing else mattered nearly as much.  This is what happens when we learn what Mary knew.  When we train ourselves in the sacred practice of sitting at Jesus' feet.  And learn to release distractions and empty ritual and a religion that burns you out.  To release performance love.  To learn to cut away what needs to be cut away and to let God break impossible walls. 

Oh, yes. I had written that above paragraph as I prepared to teach in Canada.

And there I was, in the lobby of a downtown federal building, having just seen God move literal mountains to get my family and I to Canada, despite our obstacles.  The end result was leaving five hours late.  And a new lump sum on our credit card that seemed to be taunting me.

And God was asking me.  Am I worth it?  

Then my two boys walked into the lobby, passports in hand, smiles on their faces.  I felt the tingling sensation of relief and excitement that we all felt at that moment, having seen what God had done that day.  So, I asked myself this question.

What dollar amount would I put on my children gaining the experience of seeing God reach into their lives and work out all these details miraculously?  For this moment in time that they could always reference as an instance when God answered prayers and moved huge obstacles.

I was asking myself how my assessment skills were shaping up.  Was I just going to teach about Sabbath living?  Or was I going to live it?

I do believe, Jesus, that your worth is of far greater value!  That all I can give is nothing compared to gaining you and your kingdom and glimpses of you in my life.  

I do believe!  Help my unbelief!  (Mark 9:24) As I continually seek your kingdom and sharpen my assessment skills.

This post is #17 and last in a series: Sabbath Living: Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.


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