Viva Las Chaos


This weekend my daughter and I went to Las Vegas for a gymnastics meet. It was fantastic to leave the Northwest and bask in the Sun. Still I knew it was time to get out of Vegas when my daughter saw a scantily clad casino employee dancing on a table and proclaimed, “well, somebody has had too much tequilla.” Unfortunately, leaving Las Vegas was about as easy as getting Lance Armstrong to confess.

After a solid five hours in the Airport (delayed, not delayed, and then delayed again), we finally boarded at the same time as our ETA. The plane echoed with familiar voices from our flight into Vegas. The only difference was the seating arrangement. Luckily the F-bomb sisters I know way too much about after the flight in, were 20 rows ahead of me. This time, I sat next to a not-lesbian PE teacher (her words, not mine), in front of a young woman with anxiety issues, and behind a guy with big headphones who clearly forgot his deodorant that morning. Even the stewardesses were the same, though they pretended not to know us for some reason.

We were given the usual caffeinated version of safety instructions as the plane slowly drifted from the terminal towards the runway. The engine revved, the pilot announced that the plane was cleared for departure, and my daughter complained that she was already bored. Then came the U-turn. Returning to the intercom; the pilot informed us that a pipe burst in the lavatory (that’s captain speak for bathroom). He promised that as soon as they mopped the mess, we would be on our way.

Anyone who previously used the restroom slumped in their seat, as the smell of blue water wafted my direction. I finished the crossword, twiddled my thumbs, and irritated my daughter by suggesting she make sock puppets out of the barf bags.

One hour and many towels later, the pilot promised that only paperwork stood between us and a clean departure. Waiting for paperwork turned into waiting for a fuel truck (because the 10 feet we had already gone had left us centimeters below full). And then the announcement . . .the weather had changed at our destination. Our seven hours of travel left us right back where we started.

The plan was to unload all 150 passengers, give us hotel vouchers and shuttle us 13 at a time to the Hampton Inn. The plan also included a phone number to call for information on the rescheduled flight. We learned later that the number was a dead-end.

In the midst of the chaos, my small world exploded. My mom, who had driven an hour to meet my flight, circled the city with her best friend waiting to hear if my plane was really coming. Her friend alternated texts to me with texts to her son who had received a head injury skiing and was travelling to the hospital. My son needed a place to stay, rides to and from school, and clean underwear. My stepdad triaged both my crisis and the hysterics of my oldest sister who had picked her poisoned cat up from the vet only to take her boyfriend to the emergency room. My phone warned of a dying battery as I tried to cover my shifts at work, contact my students, and find my husband. I realized that I left my phone charger at the hotel, my bank account was nearly empty, and my daughter had not eaten in almost eight hours.

There was no great tragedy in it all, just an overwhelming amount of life’s little difficulties.

So when the first hotel shuttle appeared eons later, another gymnastics mom and I pushed our daughters to the front of the line and told them to “get on the bus.” We then used the “but our kids are on there” line to force our way past irritated passengers. That same mom then convinced me on the shuttle that we should go to a show. Frankly, I couldn’t afford a show but exhaustion deprived me of any restraint.

Next thing I knew, daughters in tow, we walked two miles down the strip to The Wynn, grabbed our tickets in the splash zone, and took our seats inches from the stage.  The lights dimmed and I was engulfed by La Reve (The Dream): a Cirque du Soleil that took my breath away, and dissolved my  troubles. The story line began with a woman torn by love and finished with a stunning display of enormous flowers that burst open throughout the auditorium. They were close enough touch, but too beautiful to disturb. A fairy tale ending to a goulish day.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon gives an ongoing lament about that which happens “under the sun.” It is not a great theological dissertation, but an honest human response to life. He declares the injustice of where the rain falls, the exhaustion of sorrow, and the elusiveness of good. Yet, between all of the “vanities” and the “might as wells,” lies a profound insight into hope.

“Might as well find joy in work,” Solomon says.  “Even the wicked prosper,”  he rues. ” There is nothing new,” he sulks.  And then this: “God makes all things beautiful in His time . . . ” “The end is always better than the beginning.” What strange concepts. Under the sun, things deteriorate. The end is wrinkled and weak. Beauty is fading. All things wilt under the sun.  The longer they exist, the more the sun melts away.

How can Solomon say that beauty will come with time? How can he declare that the end is better?

We only see that which is under the sun. That which is often chaotic, explosive, difficult. But there is hope . . .the end is better than the beginning. In other words: God is not done. This is the song of my heart these days. When sadness creeps in . . . God is not done. When emptiness overwhelms . . . God is not done. When life is less than all that I dreamed . . . God is not done. Beauty awaits.

The plane may be delayed . . . but God is not done.

Enjoy the show . . . because God is not done.

The flowers are blooming . . . still God is not done.