Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Unexpected Gift

Two Christmas memories begged me to be picked for this post.  Both worthy of "The Unexpected Gift" title.  I randomly chose this memory for you, and will post the other on my personal blog God Loves Kids next Monday.

Two months after I was married, my mother-in-law, affectionately called Mama, asked me if I would like to go with the family to Lithuania for Christmas. Dada, my father-in-law, hadn't seen his mother or his home in Lithuania for many years. A group of his patients wanted to show their appreciation for his kind services. They offered to send us to Lithuania to visit his family for Christmas and to Germany to visit Mama's family for New Years.

Well, of course the idea sounded fabulous, but the logistics surpassed the highest skyscraper.  I said, "Sure, I'd like to go," but, I thought: I'll believe it when I see it.

My new family brought many obstacles for any serious consider of such a trip since Lithuania belonged to the USSR at the time. Three family members did not have US citizenship, one was a citizen of no country, and one had a government security clearance preventing him from entering communist countries. 

The group of patients took the challenge.  Two months later I stood in a judge's chamber with my husband, the citizen of no country, and witnessed him reciting the oath to become a US citizen. Within a few days other family members received their citizenships. As I walked out the door, I realized I needed to request time off work for an unexpected gift about to come true.

A few days before Christmas four teens, two young married couples, one baby, and my in-laws stood in an airport line to pick up our tickets to New York. Seconds after landing at Laguardia we rushed to board a helicopter to Kennedy Airport to catch our next flight. 

The teens had joked and wrestled from the moment the suitcases left the house. By the time we reached Kennedy, Dada grew frustrated with the silliness. "There will be no hooliganism on this trip!"  He hurried us to the next gate and tried to ignore the antics along the way. He seemed relieved after we took our seats on the correct airplane.

Some family members slept on the overseas flight to Copenhagen, including the baby who rested in a hammock crib suspended from the baggage overhang. My husband and I joined the teen fun. 

During our layover in Denmark, we said goodbye to the one family member with a US security clearance as he boarded his flight to Germany. Despite the great efforts of the patients working to send us, he was not allowed in the USSR.

Dada raised his finger and warned us as we boarded the plane to Moscow, "Remember, this is a communist country. They don't like hooliganism. We could be thrown in prison. You must behave."

Twenty-three hours after leaving Detroit, we landed in Moscow. We blindly followed the crowd toward international security feeling lost and confused with the Russian signs, Russian language, people pushing, crowds shifting, suitcases flying, and family members walking the wrong way. The teens resumed joking and wrestling, while Dada frantically gathered our group and steered us toward a security line.  

The Russian inspector's jaw dropped as the ten American hooligans swooped to his counter.  He shouted something in Russian and waved his arms in a circle. I think the translation might have been "GACK! You American hooligans--move through my line at once. Don't open those suitcases. Go--take your suitcases and move through at once!"

The next day we boarded our last flight to Lithuania.  Dada's poor family sacrificed their savings to prepare a special Christmas meal for us.  Fifteen family members crowded around a table lavished with cultural Lithuanian foods. I couldn't interpret the language, but I understood the message: Home for Christmas.

We rode Lithuanian trolleys through the city, sat on the hill where Dada spent time skipping school, drove by his childhood home, and visited the great Fort Trakai before flying to Germany.

This Christmas gift from Dada's patients fave more than a visit overseas, it brought family members together and helped me feel welcomed into a warm family that reached beyond American soil. It breathed life into special names.

The Old Testament foretold the greatest Christmas gift of all.  No one knew when the Messiah would come or who the parents would be. The logistics seemed to surpass the highest mountain...
an angel spoke to Mary,
Joseph listened to an angel's message to not put her away,
Caesar Augusta decreed a census which sent Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem
for the birth of her child, the King of Kings,
and the shepherds came to share the news throughout the town

Because of God's gift, we can have the true breath life through Jesus' name.

Merry Christmas


Sandee61 said...

Just and family, what more do we need. Thank you for your post and may God Bless you in the coming New Year.

Merry Christmas,

MaureenT said...

What a beautiful story! He opened many doors for you in order to make the trip.

Merry CHRISTmas

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, Mary, what an amazing story! That part about the baby sleeping on the plane stuck out to me since my daughter had such a hard time sleeping on the plane last month. What was the secret? :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow, Mary! What a beautiful story. I have to did you and your husband meet?

Mary Vee Writer said...

this particular family has blessed immensely. They provided a family spirit that I did not find in the one I grew up in.
It sure was a fun time and opened doors for witnessing.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Since the post needed to be limited, I didn't have a chance that the Vice President of the United States was called by this group to intervene to speed up the process. Talk about connections!!

Mary Vee Writer said...

My sister-in-law is the genius of creativity. She had a hammock type bed that hooked to the overhang. Her 5 month old slept the entire trip overseas. Amazing. Oh to be so crafty:) Oh, she also is the creator of the family Christmas cookies...yum!

Mary Vee Writer said...

My husband and his best friend in high school joined in some pretty bad activities. They ran with a wild crowd. After high school, his friend came back to his faith in Christ and decided to tell his friend. He brought my now husband to our church...and can figure the rest of the story:)

Casey said...

Wow Mary what a story to tell! So glad you shared it with us. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...


Julia M. Reffner said...

Oh, Mary. What a beautiful story and a beautiful story of you meeting your husband. I was curious after reading too. Thanks so much for sharing this, sorry I'm commenting a bit late.

Renee Ann said...

What a great story! Loved reading of your true-life adventure. And it sounds like you became part of a wonderful family!