Ten minutes had passed since the Captain announced the initial descent of our American Airlines flight, out of Dallas, bound for Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport. Yet, as I peered through the window aligned with my seat, I saw no evidence of what I’d expected to see.
For six years my family had teased me about a future relocation I believed God had shown me in a dream. Even though I’d had other dreams eventually realized, they thought it hilarious to consider there would be any reason or incentive to move from Texas to a cold and snowy location, like the vision in my dream.
Nevertheless, I anticipated proof, but didn’t see the evidence. A couple of minutes after the wheels unfolded in a rumbling release from the belly of the fuselage, the jets revved into an annoying high pitch scream. It sounded like they were straining to reach the finish line. In spite of the blare, I still heard an undertone of James’ voice.
“What?” I asked.
“I asked for a sign,” James said, staring straight ahead at the back of the seat in front of him. He looked like he was in a trance. His elbows rested in a point on the armrests; fingertips of each hand were pressed against tips of the other forming the shape of a steeple.
“Asked who for what sign?”
“I prayed for a sign, Pat. I’m not comfortable with the idea or prospect of moving North. We should have some kind of confirmation.” Moments passed, before He noticed the surprise on my face.
“Since when do you pray for signs?”
“If God can give you dreams, He is certainly able to give me a sign confirming it,” he said.
The plane seesawed left and right before leveling into a smooth and fast landing. Brakes were applied, and the plane gradually slowed, taxiing to an assigned gate. Immediately, the voice of a male flight attendant boomed across the PA system welcoming passengers to Milwaukee on a sunny, seventy-five degree, August morning. He advised everyone to remain seated until the seatbelt lights were turned off, but before he had chance to give permission, you could hear the sound of cell phones coming to life, and passengers speaking to those expecting their arrival.
“Did you get an answer?” I asked.
“Welcome home. Someone, somewhere, will say ‘Welcome home’, if this is where we should be. It was like an audible thought that spoke to me in my head.
We departed the airport in a rented car, on our way to company headquarters, where James was offered a new career opportunity. And believe me, through the processes of retrieving our luggage, renting a car, and acquiring directions, we were attentive to every word anyone spoke to us. But no “welcome home” was offered.
Reservations were waiting for us, at the Sheraton Hotel, two miles from the company headquarters. We checked in almost willing someone to welcome us home. Even though we both felt a little ambivalent, as to whether we really wanted that to happen. After unpacking, we left the hotel for a scheduled luncheon with the company CEO. When we arrived at the two-story, brick building, with its panoramic glass front, we were greeted by a tall, slim, African American receptionist who looked to be no more than nineteen. She led us to a conference room, where two African American women, Mrs. Carter, the CEO, and a human resource manager, and a young, male, company attorney waited for us. They were gracious, hospitable, offering us snacks and beverages, but no “welcome home”.
During a tour of the building we were introduced to several of the office personnel. Later I wondered if anyone had noticed how intently we stared into their faces, not knowing we were anticipating two providential words to seal the deal.
Lunch was at the grand Pfister Hotel, in downtown Milwaukee. Mrs. Carter and Attorney Miller escorted us to the Café Pfister, where we were treated to an impressive buffet—a delectable indulgence for our palates. The conversation was pretty much centered on Milwaukee culture, lifestyle, the surrounding communities, and the upside of Midwest weather patterns—definitely a pitch for the positives of moving to Milwaukee.
On the way back to the office, we traveled a different route, and I finally saw several groupings of those humongous, spruce tree pines seen in my dream. They were as large as the Christmas trees seen in town squares, or Rockefeller Plaza, or at the White House. I could only imagine what they must look like covered with snow. James was too engaged in conversation that had turned to company business, to notice trees. Even when I tried to call his attention to them, he was too preoccupied to be reminded of their significance to me.
When we neared the office, Attorney Miller drove half a block past it, to make a u-turn that would allow him to reach the driveway, on the other side of the boulevard. We were sitting in the left turn lane waiting for the opposing traffic to clear, when I looked to my right and was stunned with riveting amazement. A huge pond extended across what looked like five acres, in front of a very large apartment complex. Planted on the bank of the pond, in front of the apartments, was the largest banner I’d ever seen. Huge letters, easily read from the street side of the pond, read “WELCOME HOME”. Speechless, I wondered if James saw it too, with him and Mrs. Carter engrossed in conversation.
“Mrs. Bradley, you can wait in the reception area, if you’d like, while Mr. Bradley and I discuss all the specifics of the position we’re offering him, or Attorney Miller can take you back to the hotel, where you can rest,” Mrs. Carter said. “Our meeting may take a while and you’ll probably be more comfortable in your hotel room.”
“Uh…yes, yes, I’d appreciate going back to the hotel. Thank you,” I said.
And before I could call James’ attention to the banner, Attorney Miller was driving into the parking lot of the office headquarters. James and Mrs. Carter got out of the car, and I was driven back to the Sheraton.
Three and a half hours later James slid his key card in the door lock and found me slumped across king size pillows, on the king size bed, clutching a book.
“Pat…Pat, wake up.”
I opened my eyes to James stacking three large binders and a thin, leather brief case, with the company logo, on top of the desk, situated by a wall of windows, at the north end of the room.
“Did you see it? Wake up. Did you see the banner?” James asked.
I sat up, swung my legs over the edge of the bed, and stretched, with a yawn that evolved into a huge grin. “I saw it wondering if you had seen it.”
“You know what this means don’t you? I asked God for a sign and He delivered. Now, it’s up to us to trust His direction and His will.”
That was almost fifteen years ago, and to this day there has been no reappearance of the “WELCOME HOME” banner. No doubt, living in the land of the “frozen tundra” presented several challenges for our southern born, southern bred family. But God’s Grace has carried and blessed us through them all.
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