We made it! The Lord's hand of blessing and provision was on us the entire trip! I am so thankful for your prayers, and want to share all the little blessings I experienced as Anna and I traveled back to Panama.
I arrived at LAX at 12:15 am Sunday morning with 4 suitcases, a huge carseat, a diaper bag, stroller and a one year old! We were at the very end of a long check-in line, and waited over an hour to reach the ticket counter. Anna never made a peep despite being woken up only 3 hours into her normal night's sleep. I watched for over an hour as every person's bag was weighed and people were frantically transfering stuff around to avoid paying the overweight baggage fees (Eric had to fork out $100 in fees when he left!). I was panicing by the time I reached the desk, that I would be charged for all 4 bags... but the woman at the counter looked at me, with all my stuff, and Anna in the stroller... and she just slapped the stickers on each bag and sent me on my way... she never even placed any of the bags on the scale! Thank you Jesus!
With carseat slung over one shoulder, diaper bag over the other, and pushing the stroller with my free hand, I headed toward security. The guard ran over to me and asked if he could escort us up the elevator to the front of the security line! YES! When we got to the Xray machines, I placed all our stuff up there, including my shoes and the stroller, and walked through the scanner holding Anna in my arms. Just as I stepped through, one of the workers came running over with my shoes and put them down on the floor in front of me. While I put my shoes on, they opened the stroller and helped me get all of my gear off of the conveyer belt! Thank you!
As we arrived at the gate, boarding had already begun, and I was able to slip quickly to the front of the line and drop off my stroller and board. I set up Anna's carseat against the window, grabbed the new glow worm I bought her for the trip, and settled in. It seemed that the plane was loaded and taxiing to the runway in no time at all! (I had long feared that pre-boarding was going to leave us sitting on the empty plane watching people slowly trickle in for an hour!)
Before the plane took off, the flight attendant filled up Anna's sippy cup with apple juice, and we were ready to go! Five minutes after take off (2:15am) Anna was fast asleep in her carseat, lights off in the cabin. I threw on the plastic earphones and settled in to watch "Kung Fu Panda" on the screen above my head. I finished watching the movie, dozed off for at least an hour (which I NEVER am able to do on a plane), made it to the restroom and stretched my legs, all before Anna woke up. She woke up as the sun began peering through the windows, about 3 1/2 hours into the 6 1/2 hour flight! Not too bad!!!
For the remainder of the flight, Anna played with her new toys and watched Baby Einstein on the portable DVD player I propped up on my tray table. 45 minutes before landing, I let her stand in her carseat and look around the plane. She babbled and talked to everyone she could make eye contact... it was so cute! (And of course everyone around us was very happy because she had not made a peep the whole flight!!!)
When we got off the plane, we made our way down to customs. I had already filled out all of our paperwork, and got at the end of the very long line. I had been in the line only 30 seconds, when a worker came and got me and took me to the front! WHAT??? YAY!!! I was through customs and at the baggage claim carousel in 3 minutes!!! As I waited for my luggage (noticing that the very few carts in the area had long been claimed) I was wondering how I was going to get me, Anna and ALL our stuff out through the immigration area. As I stood there, an airport worker walked by and I mentioned that I was in need of a cart.... he took off and came back 5 minutes later with a cart. Yay again!
After loading all the suitcases on the cart and trying to push that cart and Anna's stroller at the same time, I realized I would need some help. So I stood still for just a second... and my first thought was "Okay, let's see how God's going to provide for this need once again" and before I had even finished the thought, a nice young man ran up and asked in spanish "Are you alone?" I said yes, and he immediately took the cart and told me he would help me all the way through immigration. LORD!!! Thank you!
The nice young Colombian man and I talked as we waited (I actually was able to communicate with him... well mostly). He loaded all of my bags onto the xray machines and waited until they had all gone through. I thanked him profusely and gave the bellhop a few dollars to take my stuff the rest of the way. Two minutes later we were walking out of the airport and saw Eric waiting for us!
PHEW!!! What a trip! It was long and challenging, but so amazing to see how the Lord cared for every little detail! Thank you Lord... You are so faithful!