76: Bringing It to Pass, Football and All

76: Bringing It to Pass, Football and All

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Christmas Miracles

Bringing It to Pass, Football and All

At the point where hope would otherwise become hopelessness, it becomes faith.

~Robert Brault

It was a crisp fall day in Madison, Wisconsin, when our University of Wisconsin football team defeated the University of Illinois in the final Big Ten Conference home game of the season. Now Wisconsin was headed to the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Florida, over the Christmas holidays. My twenty-two-year-old son, Michael, a senior at University of Wisconsin at Madison, was a four-year member of their marching band, famous for their wildly entertaining high-stepping antics that dazzled crowds.

I’d desperately wanted to go to the Rose Bowl game the year before to watch him perform, but the trip was too expensive. I didn’t know anyone in Pasadena to stay with, and airfare was out of the question. On New Year’s Day 1994, my house was full of relatives as we all watched Michael on TV. He played his drums with such precision during the Rose Bowl parade and game that my heart nearly burst with excitement and pride.

When the Wisconsin Badgers won the right to play in the Hall of Fame Bowl the very next season, I realized that that game would be Michael’s last time ever to march with the band before he graduated. I had to be there. Right! — a single parent with a small income and bigger-than-life dreams; that’s me.

In late November, I mentioned my dream to my airline pilot friends who use the extra bedrooms in our home as their Milwaukee-area home away from home. One said he had a couple of low-cost “friend” passes that my fifteen-year-old son Andrew and I could use to get to Tampa and back.

“The passes are only about ninety dollars each, round-trip,” he said. “But you’ll have to fly standby.”

I jumped at the chance as he set things in motion. Next, I had to find housing. I looked on the map and saw that our retired friends, Wally and Shirley, lived just forty-five minutes from Tampa. I was sure they’d put us up for the week in their Florida condo.

Everything seemed to be working smoothly until I called my dad in Illinois to tell him the good news. Dad planted my feet back on the ground when he said, “You’re going to Florida between Christmas and New Year’s? That’s the busiest tourist week of the year down there! And you’re flying standby? What do you think your chances are of getting on a plane that week?”

My bubble of optimism burst again when I heard on the radio that nearly thirty thousand Wisconsinites had already bought tickets to the Hall of Fame Bowl. Our chances of getting down there flying standby certainly didn’t look good. In fact, they looked impossible.

Besides, there was another glitch in the plans. The airline we’d be flying on had only one flight a day to Tampa. How could I even think there’d be empty seats on that plane during the week between Christmas and New Year’s?

I told myself disgustedly, “How could you be so stupid? This will never work!”

In addition to decorating for Christmas, buying gifts, cleaning house and planning meals for the holidays, I now had an additional stressor in my life.

I commiserated with my friend Heather, who told me, “Pat, stop worrying. Do something for me. Look through the book of Psalms. Read it until you find a verse that seems to be speaking to you.”

“Psalms? What am I going to find in there?” I asked Heather.

“Just do it. You’ll find what you’re looking for.”

That afternoon I opened my Bible and read the first two psalms. Nothing hit me. The third verse said something about a tree yielding “its fruit in season,” which only depressed me more. It made me think of ruby-red grapefruit and large, juicy oranges hanging on trees all over Florida — fruit that I certainly wouldn’t be enjoying.

This can’t be the verse that’s supposed to make me feel better, I thought. I closed the book and opened it again at random. This time, my eyes went directly to Psalms 37:5: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”

Two things about that verse threw me for a loop. The part about committing my way to the Lord — my way to see my son perform in his last game, perhaps? The other was the notion that the Lord would “do this.” If I did my part, then God would do His. In other words, if I really, truly trusted in the Lord, then He would bring all things to pass. That was the clincher, since Andrew and I would be flying standby on a “pass.”

I thought, “Okay, Patricia, this is it. If Heather can be so dead-bolt certain of her faith, why can’t you? You have to put it on the line. Do you truly believe that this is in the hands of the Lord and that He will bring it to pass?”

I only had to ask myself that question once. I sat down that moment and memorized verse 37:5. It was the first Bible verse I’d ever memorized in my life. I’ve been a longtime Bible reader and student, but memorizing is very difficult for me. I chanted the verse at least a hundred times a day during those weeks before Christmas: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”

The minute I turned the problem over to the Lord, I relaxed completely and virtually sailed through the preparations for Christmas.

Never again did I worry about whether or not we’d get on the plane, not even when I learned every flight had been greatly oversold with the exception of Christmas morning. And even for that flight, eighty of the eighty-four seats had been sold, with three weeks still to go before Christmas.

For the next three weeks, I repeated my newly memorized verse a thousand times: before I got out of bed in the morning, before each meal, during the day, in the car, in my home office, walking down the hall, in bed at night. I repeated it to all my friends and family and assured them that Andrew and I would be in Tampa for the Hall of Fame Bowl on January 2nd, and that we’d be flying down there on Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve day dawned holy and cold in Milwaukee. Andrew, my grown children, son-in-law, granddaughter, and friends Rusty and Heather and their two little daughters, all celebrated Christ’s birth amidst my giggling excitement as I packed our bags for Florida. I shared my memorized Bible verse from Psalms with them as part of the grace before our Christmas Eve dinner.

“So Mom, are you just going to keep going back to the airport every day all week until you get on a plane?” my daughter Julia asked during dessert.

“No, honey, we’ll be getting on the plane tomorrow morning. I’ll send you postcards and bring you seashells!”

Never before in my life had I been so sure of something — something that to all the sensible people around me seemed to be the folly of the century.

Bags packed, car loaded, Michael drove us to the airport at 7:30 A.M. Christmas Day. The gate agent said there’d been four people with emergencies in Florida, and they’d been given priority standby status.

It didn’t matter. I knew that when that gate closed we’d be on the plane.

That afternoon, Andrew and I picked grapefruit from the tree next to the hot tub in the backyard of our friends’ house in Florida. Nine days later, after sunning ourselves on Gulf beaches, exploring exotic wonders and following the Wisconsin marching band as they performed all over Tampa, we watched as the University of Wisconsin defeated Duke in the Hall of Fame Bowl on a beautiful, sunny, eighty-degree day.

Michael’s last performance with the band was stellar.

But not quite as stellar as my faith in the Lord — who brings all things to pass.

~Patricia Lorenz

Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul

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