During this time, while we were at Madigan, the base was preparing for thousands (literally) of troops to deploy. There were family and friends and young troops everywhere. They were coming in from all different bases and using the army base as a staging point. There were AF folk, army folk, etc.
Well this meant that hotel rooms were in pretty short supply. The hotel I was staying at did not have any more room for me after the 2nd or 3rd night, until the following week. So the day of Ash’s surgery, I had to go find another place to stay. His folks were also coming in that day.
I tried to get a room at billeting (the military hotel on the base). In Seattle, there are two bases close (literally next door) to each other. One is the Air Force base, and the other is the Army base. The army base was full, as I expected it to be. However, billeting at the AF base might have had some openings. I went to McChord, at Ashton’s urging, to see if I could find a room.
Driving into McChord was amazing. It is an incredibly beautiful base, especially around the gate. The pine trees are the tallest I have seen. When I stepped out of the car, the air was sweet with the fragrance of them. I just wanted to breathe it in for hours. It smelled better than Christmas trees. There was a road (that probably went to housing) that was fully canopied by trees, so it was like driving in a tree tunnel. I so wanted to drive down that road! Every time I passed that road, I tried to look down it and imagine being in that green tunnel. The grounds were perfectly manicured around the base, and there were tons of little hills, little hollows, and huge trees.
I got to billeting and walked in. Now, for you to fully understand the incredible grace of God in this moment, I have to give a little back story. You may or may not have spent time with me, but frankly I am a bit of a dork. Well, not a dork (geek is probably more accurate lol), but I have never blended well in groups. I put people off for any one of several reasons: either because of my turned in eye, my vocabulary, my manner, my dresses, my headcovering, whatever. It does not matter, there is always something about me that does not quite fit in well. I am used to that, have been that way since I was a child. Oh I am not generally treated badly (at least since I became an adult)! People are generally not ugly to me at all anymore. They just do not….warm up to me. You might have felt this when sitting at a table in school or in a bus and knowing that the other people there are not going to be mean, but they did not really welcome you in either. That is pretty much how it is for me normally. Do not feel sorry for me; I do not feel sorry for myself! The Lord gives each person strengths and weaknesses to do His will.
Now, understand though that I did not realize the truth of the statement I just made until this trip—the LORD enables each person in the way He would have them. There is a Bible verse in Psalms, I believe, that says “He makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (meaning the Lord makes the righteous man’s enemies live at peace with the righteous man). So the Lord can change the heart of people.
Ok, back to billeting. I walk into billeting to see if they have room for me. I soon realize that everyone is acting as if I was their only reason for getting up that morning! Their HEARTS were turned towards me. I have never experienced anything quite like that. It was like I was a celebrity or something. People were not bowing and scraping, but rather acting like I was THE most important thing they had that day, that there was NO OTHER REASON for them to be there. When I thought back, I realized that everyone that I had to interact with personally (except the one girl at the car rental place) acted that way—like I was their reason for being. I cannot express how that made me feel.
It made me humble and grateful. You know when someone is truly happy to be with you, truly wants to help you—you can feel it in your soul. THIS was my experience. It has only happened that once, and I do not know if it will happen again, but I am thankful to the Lord for it. It was beautiful and tender and buoyed me.
I checked in at billeting and they were able to give me a room key for that day. They were concerned about what room I had, probably because my husband is an officer, but I told them “I just want a bed and a bathroom, it does not matter the size.”.
The room key was one of those plastic, slide-in-the-slot things. There was a paper wrapper that the key fit in that had a coupon for 10% off of a purchase at the BX (the store on base…kinda like a small walmart), and half off a meal at the food court. When the clerk pointed that out to me, I was tickled and said “Oh thanks!”. (this will come into play later).
However, the problem was that I would only be in that room one or two nights, then I would be having to wait and see if someone cancelled their reservation and move rooms. If I had to do that, I would but really, at this point, I knew that I just wanted ONE place to stay for the rest of the trip. The front desk clerk said that I needed to wait for the manager, to speak to her, and that maybe they could work something out. I sat in the lobby and waited for a while.
After about 20 minutes, the manager was available. I told her my dilemma, and told her I did not care what kind of room it was. Unfortunately, they did not have a room for me that would go the whole time. What she could do, though, is give me a “non-availability statement”. This is a note that basically tells the military “We could not fit her in, so she had to stay off base”. See, because I was “on orders” (meaning officially covered by the military to travel), they would pay for my hotel room. However, they, of course, want me to stay on base as it is basically just their same money going back to them. If, though, there is no room on base, they will pay for me to stay off base—they do not just say “Sure hate it for ya”.
However, in order for them to pay for me to stay off base, I needed the non-availability statement, as billeting is much cheaper than off base hotels. The manager, Anne, was more than happy to give that to me (her heart was turned to me too!). I asked her if she knew of any place off base I could stay. I was worried that I would end up being in an unsafe, unsanitary motel somewhere. She called a couple of places that she knew well (as she seemed familiar with the people she was talking with). She did find a place for me further down the highway, but not too far. It was called “Shiloh Inn”. She asked me if that was ok. I had never heard of it, and asked her if it was relatively clean and safe. She assured me that it was a nice place. I really did not have a whole lot of choice at that point, so I said ok.
Now, remember, I am rather at wits end at this point. I had been going relatively non-stop for about 2.5 days. I asked her what I need to do with the room they already assigned me. She asked if I had been in the room and I told her no, that I had just been in the lobby. She said just turn the key in. So I went back to the front desk and explained what had just happened. I assured her as well that I had not gone to the room, had been in the lobby of billeting the whole time. She said it was no problem and took the key BUT handed the little cover back to me so I could get the coupons. I tried to give it back to her, as I felt it was a little unfair since I was not staying there. But she insisted that I take it. Honestly, I about cried right there. I know that half off a burger from burger king might not seem like much, but to me, it was the world. It was provision and kindness and mercy and love. It was the Lord providing and people being wonderful to me. It meant….everything—it represented all the kindness and mercy I had been shown. I did not cry at the desk, but thanked her profusely and walked to my car with my eyes filling with tears. I still have that little paper sleeve. It is in my wallet as a small testament to yet another of a million miracles of this day.