About hopesquires

I've left behind the daily grind to write full time and to figure out what my own flourishing tree looks like. I'd love to help you flourish and grow along the way, so that you, too, can cultivate a life that pleases God.

Stuck at the Atlanta airport: Survival tips

You may recall I was traveling across the country—from California to Alabama—to attend family celebrations the last two and a half weeks. The two celebrations were too far apart to consider staying for the whole time, and so that meant a lot of back and forth.

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No plane. No go.

Direct flights weren’t an option, and so both weeks, I traveled through Atlanta. And both weeks, I spent an unexpected night in Atlanta.

Misfortune struck on my way back home from the first trip, with bad weather delaying my trip into Atlanta, causing me to miss my connection. In retrospect, that overnight stay wasn’t particularly bad. Yes, it involved a migraine (my first in years), my dinner dropping out of the bottom of a soggy bag and a suitcase I would not see again until home. But the stay also included a hotel room, a clean bed and a hot shower.

I would not be so fortunate on my next trip through Atlanta. Last week, I spent the night in the airport. After weather delayed my flight, we boarded at midnight and then the pilot timed out before we could take off. By then, hotels were full, and I and a few thousand of my new best friends would be spending the night in the Atlanta terminals.

Here are a few tips, should you find yourself in a similar unfortunate position someday.

If it’s late at night but vendors are still open, get food and something to drink. Shops and restaurants will not stay open all night, and they may or may not reopen before your flight leaves in the morning. There are a lot of food options in Atlanta, and the directory can point you to another concourse with completely different choices. A few of my favorites include:

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  • Bojangles (Terminal T): This was the first time I even knew there was a Bojangles in the Atlanta airport. Those of you who follow my blog regularly know this discovery was balm to my soul. Tip: Bo Rounds only come standard during breakfast hours, despite what’s advertised on their sign. After breakfast hours, you’ll get fries unless you specifically ask for Bo Rounds.
  • Willy’s Mexican Grill (Terminal B): This place feels like a step up from Chipotle. Lots of build-your-own options, and you won’t leave feeling hungry.
  • Cafe Intermezzo (Terminal B): You can sit down or take out, and they have an extensive tea menu, too. If you like desserts, they have a tempting bakery case.
  • Chick-fil-a (Terminal A): The only caveat here is that they use the same foil-lined bags for their grilled sandwiches as their fried sandwiches, and the grilled sandwiches will make the bag soggy. So don’t try to put part of your sandwich back in the bag and expect it to stay there instead of dropping through to the floor. (See paragraph three above.)
  • One Flew South (Terminal E): A fellow passenger told me, “People plan their trips through Atlanta around this restaurant. It’s upscale and has the best food of any airport I’ve ever been to.” So I tried it. The lentil soup is fabulous, but the menu caters heavily to carnivores. You’ll find new Southern cuisine and sushi. Hmmm. An odd mix, but worth a try if you don’t mind a limited menu.

Get a blanket as quickly as possible. There will be people in front of you who insist they need five blankets. And it’s not because they have four children with them. The terminal is cold and will only get colder through the night. If you don’t get a blanket at first, continue checking by the “help” areas. Delta was doing blanket laundry throughout the night, and every now and then, a large box of clean, wrapped blankets would magically appear. If the shops are still open, you may also consider one of those travel pillows you’ve been putting off buying. The terminal seats may be cushioned, but they are nowhere near pillow soft.

Try to find three seats together near a charging station. This will kill two birds with one stone. You’ll be able to stretch out. (Please don’t be a hog and take four seats unless you are really, really tall or are traveling with children.) You’ll also be able to plug in your phone to charge. If you have earplugs/headphones, go ahead and use them. Atlanta is quite possibly the loudest airport in the world, and it does not sleep at night. If you have music on your phone, play it to drown out the public address system that will never, ever stop or get quieter all night long. I also recommend covering your face with a spare article of clothing, if you have your bag with you. This is not so you will suffocate, but it will help block the obnoxious overhead lights that will never, ever dim all night long.

Be prepared to move—even to a different terminal—to find a darker, quieter corner away from overhead speakers, the worst of the florescent lights and those inevitable jerks who feel the need to carry on loud phone conversations while walking among a sea of people clearly trying to sleep. Try really hard not to wish scurvy or death on these people. They’re having a bad night, too. You may have to repeat this attempt several times before you can stop wishing scurvy or death or, at the very least, sudden-onset laryngitis on them.

The family restroom may be one of the quietest places you’ll find to brush your teeth and wash your face. It’s also easier to change into fresh clothes in those than in the main bathrooms. Just don’t stay locked in there too long. Others may be waiting to do the same.

Be kind to the workers. The Atlanta airport never sleeps, and there are workers who still have jobs to do, even when the airport turns into a “hostel” for the night. If there is a man sweeping the carpet for an hour near where you’re trying to sleep, get up and go find another area to try to sleep. He’s just trying to clean the floor for the next folks who will have to sleep on it.

You can travel between concourses, but it may take longer at night. The trains stop running at some point. So do many of the escalators. Maintenance on escalators and moving walkways may happen at night. If you want to get from one terminal to another, take the elevator (a nice warm, dimly lit, quiet piece of heaven) to the train level and then walk to the other concourses from there.

If you can’t sleep, go learn something. Several areas between concourses have exhibits. One has an exhibit on the history of Atlanta (I think between B and C concourses). If you don’t feel like walking to read each panel, ride on the moving walkway. When you reach the end, go back on the opposite walkway to read the panels on the other side. Repeat as desired. The area between A and T has a wonderful exhibit of African sculptures. This was my favorite place to linger:

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Aptly named “Waiting”

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It’s pretty cool that there’s even a phone number where you can learn more, almost like being in a real museum.

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A favorite sculpture. I envied this bird for its wings. With wings, I’d never have to be stuck in Atlanta overnight again.

Count your blessings. Know that even though it is miserable and uncomfortable, sleeping in the Atlanta airport is not the worst thing that could happen to you. The CNN newsreel loop that played all night included the woman whose sister called her from the washed-away house in the Houston floods to say “Please tell Mom and Dad I love them. And I love you.” I cannot even imagine the night she had.

Have you ever been stuck overnight at an airport? I’d love for you to share your stories and tips in the comments below.

For my nephew and his bride on the eve of their wedding

My dear nephew and his bride,

Your wedding is tomorrow. You won’t have time to really read and take this in today, but it’ll be here when you do.

It’s hard to imagine that the little blond baby I fell head over heels in love with at the hospital not that long ago is ready to take a bride, but the two of you have declared your intentions to walk together from now on. Your new life as husband and wife begins tomorrow.

To wish you well along your journey together, I’ve asked some friends to share their advice with the two of you. I’m including some of my own thoughts, as well as some “white wedding-y” flower photos, all taken since you two first met.

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You may hear, especially this first year, that the first year of married life is the hardest. That may be true for you, as your final year of college will bring its own special kind of stress and difficulties. But don’t get complacent after you’ve made it through the first year: it’s not necessarily true that the first year is the hardest. Marriage will always take effort. Expect ups and downs throughout your marriage. There will be good days and bad days, good years and tough ones. Agree from the start that you will weather these together.

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Marriage is not a contest or a competition. At times, one of you may bring more to the relationship than the other. Accepting that you won’t always contribute 50-50 will save you from many tears and frustrations.

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You are at the same time still young but also grown and ready to make life-changing decisions. Know that you will both change—possibly a lot—in your twenties. Your hopes will change. Your dreams will change. Your goals will change. May you grow stronger together as you encounter these inevitable changes.

Because you are marrying now, before you have figured out your vocations and avocations, you will likely have to make sacrifices for the happiness of your spouse. It may feel too hard sometimes to put your personal dreams on hold, but expect there to be times (maybe years at a time) when your personal goals and dreams do not get to come first.

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I know it’s hard to imagine not wanting to be together all the time, and you should enjoy each other’s company and enjoy many of the same hobbies and activities. But also give yourselves time and space to cultivate interests that you don’t both necessarily share. Think of this space in your marriage as a way to bring out the best in each other. As counterintuitive as it may seem, these differences can enrich your marriage and make you stronger together.

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Your marriage isn’t all about you. You are part of something greater than just the two of you. I hope you’ll find a way to bring your strengths as a couple to share with those around you. And I hope you’ll lean on your faith to help you learn how you are to love yourselves and others as fully as possible. Henri Nouwen wrote it beautifully:

… I have love to offer to people, not only here, but also beyond my short, little life. I am a human being who was loved by God before I was born and whom God will love after I die. This brief lifetime is my opportunity to receive love, deepen love, grow in love, and give love.

Finding My Way Home, 139-40

Speaking of faith, I hope you won’t ignore its importance in your relationship. God’s love is a perfect love and can teach you how to love each other even when you don’t really much like each other. A faith community is also a vital way to grow together, develop abiding friendships, and find mentors and other couples who can hold you accountable for your actions within your marriage. Many of my friends who married young attribute their successful marriage to a strong faith and the communities of faith that have supported them in difficult times.

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I could ramble on, but I’ll stop here. I wish you joy. I love you. I pray you will, together, be exceptional.


As promised here is some advice from friends across the country. Some have had long and happy marriages. Some have learned hard lessons in divorce and remarriage. All have walked the road ahead of you and have wisdom to share with you.

On changing (for good and for bad)

  • “My grandmother told me when I got married (at 19 years old) that whatever they do when you get married they will keep doing. Whatever they do NOT do, they will continue NOT doing. Don’t expect people to change when you get married.”
  • “We are always developing as individuals and as couples. Never stop trying to ‘get to know’ your partner. You are both new people every day.”

On inevitable fights

  • “Using slogans such as ‘How important is it?’ would have resulted in fewer stupid arguments and less resentments resulting from the petty stuff we might notice when we are younger.”
  • “Pick your battles. Everything is NOT worth a disagreement. This advice has helped us to have almost 20 years of happiness.”
  • “I think the word ‘blame’ should be eliminated from the vocabulary. The idea of blame is intrinsically crippling. That is why it is spelled B LAME.”
  • “My mantras: 1. Accept and embrace imperfection, in myself and others. 2. Refrain from personalizing—other people’s feelings are usually not due to you. They are feelings. 3. Pause before reacting. 4. Choose encouragement, not criticism. 5. In discussions, say ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You should’ 6. Approach your days with kindness, savoring and gratitude. 7. Give as you would like to receive. (an iteration of the Golden Rule, of course!) 8. Let go. Let love.”
  • “You don’t always have to be right. In 35 years it won’t matter anyway. When we got married our theme was ‘Divorce is not an option.'”
  • “My advice is to be honest and truthful but not hurtful in the process. Remember, the person you are speaking to holds the other half of your heart. So treat it with care.  There is a gentle way to address all situations and you can NEVER take back words said in spite disguised as honesty.”

On compromise

  • “Marriage is a compromise where things don’t turn out like she or he wants, but instead how the couple, as one, wants. It’s worked for 32 years and counting. There’s no more you and me; it’s now us and we.”

On your future together

  • “Talk about money, and save money together. Start now, not later.”
  • “Do not hurry to have children.” [I would add: be willing to revisit your decision not to have children, as your desires may change over time. They may not, but be open to an honest conversation on this huge decision.]
  • “Make time to do things together. Plan mini vacations.”
  • “Remember that in marriage there are many ups and downs. There will be days you wake up and are so in love with your spouse and others you can’t seem to stand to look at them, but these times are normal and will ebb and flow. It doesn’t mean the love is gone; it returns! Stay patient and work and remember it isn’t always easy, but with God in the center of your marriage, you can conquer all!”

On luck and blessings that will keep your marriage going

  • “I know this isn’t a very Christian perspective, but I feel extremely ‘lucky’ that our marriage has been what it is. We were so young and naive.”
  • “These are the only things I can think of that are authentic and sincere: May you laugh together every day, find things you love to do together and separately, and grow up together.”

To all the rest of you reading this, what advice, blessings or well wishes would you add to send off this young couple into their marriage?

God’s pen

I traveled back to southern humidity this past weekend, there for a family celebration. At one point, I saw this church sign. (My sweet husband drove back by it the next day so I could snap a picture.)

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The sign’s message resonated with me, and I wanted to share it here in case it resonated with you. As a writer, my pen can carry God’s message to the world, but there’s more to this sign than just a word for writers. And there are more ways I can be God’s pen than only through my writing.

How can your life be God’s pen?


I’ve always loved reading church signs. Some provoke thought; others are silly. Some have questionable theology; others ring true. Some play with puns. Some simply welcome. Do you have a favorite church sign?

Revisiting the good aunt

I’m heading into a month of good aunt activities: graduations, a wedding, visits with family and friends whom I also consider family. The amount of travel is dizzying, and I’m still trying to catch up from having been sick off and on for several weeks. But in the midst of it all, I’m thinking and writing a lot about the good aunt.

My latest writing project is an expansion of the Good Aunt series from 2012. I have been blessed to interview some wonderful women along the way, hearing about their paths to childlessness and uncovering their struggles and joys that have led them to flourishing lives.

The topic of childlessness is no less charged than it used to be, but I am seeing more conversation around the topic in mainstream media. Where I’m not hearing as much is within the Christian community, and I’d like for that to change. (Well, Pope Francis broke his silence recently—declaring childless couples selfish—but that requires its own response another time.)

The church’s silence can be supportive or condemning, and it can be hard to tell which until an issue comes to the surface. This silence makes me want to have a louder conversation about childlessness, both within the Christian community and the broader culture.

This is a subject worth delving into, worth understanding better. Women and men choosing childlessness need the telling of our stories. We need the ears and the voice of the church. We need a better response than silence or a patronizing label calling us selfish.

Whether you have children or don’t, if there’s something you hope I’ll address in this project, I’d love to hear from you. The brilliant, amazing women I’ve been interviewing may just have the response you’ve been waiting to read.

Simply comment below, contact me by email, send me a tweet (use #goodaunt) or post on my Facebook page. Let’s keep the conversation going.

The dragonfly visitor

As I continue to fight to get over a lingering illness, my energy is slowly coming back. A couple of days ago, I knew I was on the mend because I felt like going outside to take some pictures.

A visitor has been stopping by my house every day, usually several times a day. She kindly posed for me on several of her favorite perches:

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Glittering in the sun

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Smiling at me?

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Sunning atop an apple tree

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I cannot get over the intricacy of her wings

I’ve been calling her Joy—first, because her visits delight me. Second, one of my dearest friends is named Joy, and she loves dragonflies. So when this small, beautiful creature visits me, she makes me smile and makes me think of my sweet friend.

What visitors delight you in your garden? Or bring you joy on your daily walk? Or welcome you in a special place you visit to unwind?