Canada Trip, Part 12: Chicago

 

I don’t like loose ends and want to complete my Canada Blog Series from the end of 2012. In November 2012, I was invited to be one of the keynote speakers to Doreen Penner’s women’s conference in Mitchell, Canada. I flew into Winnepeg, Canada, to get there, but took the Canadian Via Train and the U.S. Amtrak Train on the way home to Kansas City, MO – a five day, exciting adventure and a great blessing from God. This is part 12 and the final blog post (for now!) for my Canada Blog Series. You can read Part 11 here.

Canada Blog Series, Part 12: Chicago

After Doreen invited me to be one of the keynote speakers at her conference, I had talked to Ray, and God spoke to my heart to do this, I began praying in the provision for the trip. I share about the money miracles in several of my Canada blog posts, such as Part 4 and Part 9.

When I left Kansas City, MO, to fly into Winnepeg, Canada, it was a leap of faith because my hotels weren’t booked yet for my overnight stays in Vancouver, Canada ,and Chicago, IL, for my return home. I didn’t know if I’d wind up on the streets, but I had to just trust and believe that God was going to somehow provide a place to me to stay when I arrived in both cities.

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Chicago, IL

I confess that not having my hotel rooms booked was one of the hardest parts of the trip, and Ray – who isn’t prone to fear normally – was worried about my safety, too. I didn’t know what was going to happen when I arrived and I was battling fear. I didn’t want to walk around these two cities, notorious for thugs, rape, and murder, late at night.  As I shared on my Facebook page today, prayer means learning to let go and let God take over.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” – Hebrews 11: 1-3, NLT

The night before I left Canada, my hotel rooms were both paid for and booked. The one in Chicago was a beautiful Renaissance hotel. God had provided; He had done money miracles! God is Jehovah Jireh the Provider, just as He was for Abraham, providing a ram in the thicket.

Beautiful Renaissance hotel lobby
Beautiful Renaissance hotel lobby

Do you need a “ram in the thicket”? God is able!

God had told Abraham to go to the land of Moriah and offer up his only son, the promise child Isaac, as an offering to God. God did this to test Abraham’s faith. Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took two of his young men and Isaac with him, saying he was going up the mountain to worship God. He laid on Isaac the wood to carry up the mountain, going to the place where God had told him to go.

Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice, his own sacrifice, just as Jesus carried the cross for our sacrifice. When Isaac asked his father where the ram was for the sacrifice, Abraham replied, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22: 1-5; Genesis 22: 6-8)

Just as Abraham was about to slay his son with the knife, an angel of the Lord called out to him and the Lord told Abraham not to lay his hand on him or do anything to him, because He now knew Abraham feared God and loved Him. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.  So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering to the Lord instead of his son. So Abraham named that place, “The Lord will provide,”  as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22: 9-14)

God provided me a hotel room through some generous people, when I didn’t have the money myself. I was so thankful for a place to sleep. The Bible says that Jesus, the son of God, had nowhere to lay his head. No soft pillow or blanket to cover him. (Luke 9:58) I was so grateful that God supernaturally provided for me.

God will do the same for you when you have faith and trust in Him.

Since I hadn’t exchanged my money yet and the bank in Seattle wouldn’t exchange my money, The “angel” exchanged his $20 U.S. dollars for my $20 Canadian dollars, so that I would have money for the subway and food in Chicago.  He did this even though he said he had no more money. This was another money miracle for me from God.

Canadian money
Canadian money

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder

The Ambrak train had made a lot of stops on the way, so we arrived in Chicago almost three hours late – at night! At the Chicago train station, I immediately found out the info to take the subway, which was a couple of blocks away. You have to purchase a ticket to ride the subway, although nobody checked mine. Make sure you are on the RIGHT train! Arriving in Chicago was the part I had feared most. I’m not afraid to die because I know where I’m going (do you?), but being stabbed or shot and suffering is another matter.

Ray and Heather hadn’t heard from me for several days while I was on the train and were worried I’d already arrived in Chicago and that something bad had happened to me.  Finally, my cell phone started working again on the train just before I arrived in Chicago (phone service was very sporadic throughout Canada and the U.S.), and I texted Ray and Heather to pray for me to quickly find the subway station and to get to my hotel safely. As I walked to the subway, I heard footsteps behind me. A man passed me by and I breathed a little easier.

There were definitely some interesting characters waiting around for the subway. Two men resembling what I imagined to be gang members, with pants hanging off their butts, wearing oversized trench coats, and one glaring at me menacingly for me simply breathing air, walked by closely. I decided to play it cool and look at him evenly as if he touched me, I’d take him down to the ground, lol.  But inside I was praying fervently, knowing God was bigger than these men and His angels surrounded me! The Chicago Crime Commission Gang Report in 2012 states that there are about 68,000 gang members in Chicago, with more gang members than New York, Miami, Houston, or any other major city besides Los Angeles.

The subway hauls butt and fun; it is fast!

Below is a pic when I was riding the subway. I enjoyed people-watching: the Asian family with a cute toddler boy who was all smiles and chattering constantly, the man standing by the hand rail with the French beret cap, the red-haired woman who was reading a thick book. I wondered if she was a writer.

Subway in Chicago
Subway in Chicago

The blessing

I couldn’t believe it when I arrived at my hotel. My room was like a suite, with a separate living room/office, a large bedroom, and a big bathroom with beautiful black countertops and a glass shower. I nosily looked at the hotel cost on the door on the hotel instructions for fire escape, valuables box, laundry, etc.:  Over $400 a night!  That probably isn’t what my “givers” paid for it…but this was no shanty shack!

I felt a twinge of guilt inside my heart. The “angel” was probably staying in a shelter somewhere. Who was I to deserve this blessing from God? I thought about the “fairness” of life. The angel had told me on the train that one time he slept on the floor of a gas station, locking the door, because he had nowhere else to go. I couldn’t imagine living like this. My analytical mind started whirring again. If he was really an angel, why would he be sleeping on a dirty gas station floor? Ray said that maybe God had sent him here to earth to experience human suffering, like Jesus did…that God’s ways are not our ways.

I thought of suffering in the world. Why was life good to some and not to others? The Bible says God rains on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5: 45).

I decided to just be thankful and enjoy the luxury hotel room. I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth! Why waste the blessing by feeling guilty because God had been good to me and had answered my prayers for a hotel room – even above what I had prayed or expected!

I wrote in my journal:

“The walls of the room are a soft yellow. One picture hangs above the teal blue couch that looks like a scene from an Italian village. If I had a new home, I’d decorate it in an Italian theme like Helen’s home. A chair with a fabric of striped, many colors, like Joseph’s coat, is beside the couch…The bed has soft white sheets, a white soft comforter and soft white pillows, my favorite bedding. I felt like Queen Latifah in The Last Holiday movie…I just wanted to squeeze the pillows and I did.” Hahaha!  I was almost purring like a cat.

“The shower is stone and transparent glass. The tile is an earth tone, like stone. The counters are black  with a sterling silver faucet and silver decorations like the soap dish. I feel totally spoiled. There is a mini-fridge and a coffee maker for my coffee in the morning. The large, beige desk I’m writing on is smooth and has “waves” on top like ocean waves. It has cute little shelves and an ice bucket on the top shelf, with a bottle of Evian water.”

By now you are concluding I don’t get out much, LOL. I really felt spoiled by God. He is so good!

You can get an idea of the luxury of this hotel room below.

My "suite" hotel room at the Chicago Renaissance hotel

I loved the bathroom’s modern, black counter with the sterling silver faucet and towel ring and silver decorations; also the “stone” tile floor.

Loved the black counter & glass shower at the hotel
Loved the black counter & glass shower at the hotel

I especially loved the glass shower. That hot shower felt HEAVENLY after the 3 day train trip with no shower or bath!

Glass shower at hotel in Chicago
Glass shower at hotel in Chicago

This is the hotel desk with the “waves” where I wrote in my journal. One reason I love hotel rooms is that they have desks to write on – and often, hotel stationery.

Hotel desk
Hotel desk

Blessings in Chicago

The hotel was an INCREDIBLE blessing! And there was more. Because I was waiting on money to transfer to my checking account back home, the $20 which the “angel” had exchanged on the train for my $20 Canadian dollars was enough for my subway ride and for me to buy supper at the hotel. Once again, God provided for my needs!

I asked a hotel custodian on the elevator if there was a restaurant open at the hotel and he told me what floor it was on, then suggested ordering delivery at the hotel. I noticed he had a stutter, and it reminded me of Moses. He had a servant’s heart and found brochures at the front desk for me, suggesting a particular restaurant, which had just the right price! I felt God put him in my path as well to help me. I would love to stay at this wonderful Renaissance hotel again when Ray and I go back to Chicago!

The next morning, I waited at the subway station. Below is the station by my hotel. I hope to go back to Chicago with Ray one day to enjoy a longer Chicago experience. For one, I didn’t get to try Chicago pizza, which Ray says is GREAT! I’d also like to see a play there.

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You can see the Renaissance hotel and the glass walkway in the distance. You have to walk through a glass walkway to get to the subway station, where you then buy your ticket for the subway. I was thankful the subway employees helped me so I would get on the right train. 🙂 I met a pilot walking on the walkway, who said he travels a lot. I told him that I used to be a flight attendant, but resigned because I didn’t see my family enough and missed them too much. He looked thoughtful and said he should spend more time with his family, too. Scatter seeds of truth wherever you go!

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Chicago is known as the “Windy city.” It was exhilarating, but can be cold and cutting. Like Vancouver, the city is alive with energy. As I waited at the station above, I prayed for the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow all over Chicago.

While waiting, I saw a girl with hoodie on that had a logo about faith. I started talking to her and found out she was a Christian. I felt this was just a little sign from God that I was in the right place at the right time. 🙂

I wasn’t able to go shopping or anywhere due to time, but was able to see a little of Chicago riding the subway. Chicago has a lot of skyscrapers. It also has a lot of graffiti on some of the buildings in other sections.

Chicago from subway
View of Chicago from subway

Chicago is a melting pot and has a diverse ethnic population with the main ones being Irish, German, Italian, Mexican, Arab, English, Bulgarian, Czech, Greek, Black, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Ukranian, Dutch, Belgian, and Puerto Rican. (Resource: Wikipedia) It offers a variety of ethnic restaurants. I saw many different types on the same block, as I walked around, going back to the subway station. Below is a pic of an Indian restaurant. Right beside it was an authentic Italian restaurant.

Restaurants in Chicago
Restaurants in Chicago

Reflections

On the subway ride, I thought about some of the things the “angel” had shared with me on the train to Chicago. He said that people treat you the way you view yourself. If you view yourself as successful, they treat you that way. I found that ironic with the way he was dressed in shabby clothes, but he was clothed in the anointing and humility of Christ.  He didn’t feel inferior in any way. He had God-confidence and God-authority. What about you?

I loved Chicago. By the time I arrived there, I was ready to go home. My total trip took 9 days. It was a time I needed for reflection, rest and relaxation.  I was given the wonderful opportunity to see much of Canada throughout the gorgeous Rockies and the Rockies in the U.S. My trip to Canada was an incredible blessing from God. I went there to impart and bless others, but received MUCH more than I gave. God is so good to me. I can’t thank Him enough.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Canada blog series. I’d love to hear comments from you about any aspect of my trip. Just remember that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, even when all the pieces to the puzzle aren’t in place. If God has told you to do something, He will bring the provision you need. He will reward and bless you for your obedience.

I now have precious memories of this trip and am so glad and grateful to God, Ray, Rick and Doreen, Dan and Helen that I got to go. Thank you to all of you and thanks to all of you who prayed for my trip.  Please leave your comments below; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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