Over Memorial Day weekend, our family planned a trip to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It was supposed to be a relaxing adventure. We had our schedule well planned from the time we would rise in the morning and take a morning hike, to the time we would enjoy local attractions, local eats, and some mountain time. For months, our agenda was set, flight reserve and cabin booked. As we head to the airport full of excitement, the first text from the airline comes in, our flight was delayed by one hour. Ok. Well, this happens. So, we are off by an hour?

By the time we made it through security and on to our gate, our departure time had once again changed and now we were more than two hours behind schedule. This would not have been the worst thing in the world, had it not been a late flight to start with. We arrived in Tennessee after 2 am the next day. The car rental counter was closed, and our rental car was nowhere to be found. We saw another car rental place with one employee ready to go home, so we headed his way. We asked him about a rental. “There is a national car shortage”, he said “we do not have anything in stock”.  Panic started to creep inside me. No car, no taxi, no uber, it is 2 am, and the cabin is over an hour away in the middle of nowhere.

We explain our situation. He was very nice and understanding. He started typing in his computer looking for something. As he is doing this, his manager calls. She wanted to make sure that he had performed his closing duties for the night. He was talking to her as he was trying to help us. She overheard the conversation and told him that there may be something for us. He found a small car. At this point, we were happy with whatever we got. For the rest of the time, five of us traveled everywhere in a small sedan.

Have you ever seen a can of sardines? Well, this was us. We were close to each other, feeling every bump in the road, and navigating every curve and every turn leaning on top of each other. The trip to the cabin was fun. It was pitch dark and there were few lights on the narrow uphill and downhill curves. The car maneuvered well, and its size made navigating the narrow steep curves easier.

The next few days we visited places filled with people like us looking to explore the Smoky Mountains. Parking was tough, but because of this little car we were able to find one small spot- the only parking spot available for miles. This car was a blessing!

So, our trip to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee was great. We did not arrive on time, get the car we wanted, or make it to our morning hike. We did many great things that were not on the agenda and visited a couple of attractions that were. This was not the trip we had designed, but it was a perfect trip. We have so many great memories that include the delayed flight and the less than stellar car. These are two things that I would not have chosen, but they made the trip even more memorable.

So here is the punchline: life happens. Things happen. It is what we do with the things that happen that determine the outcome. The delayed flight and the small car could have soured our trip and created some bad feelings inside. Instead, we chose to be thankful. We were grateful that we could still enjoy the rest of the trip despite these setbacks. No matter if things aren’t going as you planned, just take a moment to thank God for the blessings in disguise!

-Dr. Evelyn Cardenas