Well, I am home from my Victory From Radiation trip. For two weeks, I did nothing but enjoy life, wear my new cancer-kicking-cowboy-boots, visit both my dear sons, my brother and family, and my parents, who all live too far away. I walked or biked long hours each day, and spent a lot of time praying and thanking God. I didn't work on my books, market my books, or write my blog.
When I had quiet time, I read the Bible or a good novel. I walked through beautiful places, many of which brought back poignant memories of days long gone. I took countless photos. (And by the way, a vast majority of them are selfies. I am not deluded and don't believe I have a chance at a career as a cover girl. I take selfies because I want to remember I was the one in the beautiful place I am memorializing. Fifty years from now, when I look back on the photos, I won't care if it is just a pretty picture of a place that would probably be better captured by a post card. I will care that I was there, smiling in the midst of the loveliness. If my loved ones were with me, they would be in the photo but for most of my walks and bike rides, I was alone. Hence, lots of selfies.)
I did write one poem on the final day of my trip:
So many memories of years long past,
Joy mixed with sorrow for things that don't last,
Grateful eternity won't vanish so fast.
On the last morning of my exodus, I hiked ten miles through the historic and stunning little town of Lexington. I had visited that city many times when my son, Matthias and his wife both attended Washington and Lee Law School there. It is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. It is also on the Bikecentennial Bike trail.
In 1976, my father sent me on a trip of a lifetime, crossing Virginia on my bicycle with the Bikecentennial group. I slept with the group in a little park on the outskirts of Lexington, and then biked through Lexington. The memories are vague, but were rekindled as I wandered through the cemetery, along the Maury river, and through the campuses of Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. Colorful scenes from my distant past drifted through my mind like leaves blown loose by the autumn breeze.
Slowly, over the two weeks of my trip, the seared, red skin from my radiation treatments faded to a normal color. The pain from the rib I broke five weeks ago in a stupid bicycle mishap subsided. The swelling from the two cancer operations, the broken rib, and the effects of radiation ebbed. I felt almost normal again as I lugged my suitcases back into my house yesterday.
I listened to countless sermons on the radio during the many hours driving. One struck me particularly, and I called upon the lesson of the speaker many times. We who have accepted Jesus as Lord and savior are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The speaker described how she would specifically ask the Holy Spirit to teach and to comfort her during times of despair or confusion. The situation rarely changed, but she said more often than not, peace would descend upon her and optimism would replace dread.
During my trip, memories flooded back with each familiar city I visited; during the time spent with my oldest son, Anders, and my middle son, Matthias, and then while wandering and biking places where I had spent years being a part of the landscape. I found myself remembering not only the good, but also the bad. I reflected upon all the times I had failed, or others had failed me, and fought off tears and despair not a few times. Each time, choking back tears, I said aloud, "Comfort and guide me Holy Spirit. I cannot do this alone."
This is my message-- the treasure God sent me as I return from my trip. When we specifically call upon Him, He is indeed there. Each time I did so, the intensity of my sorrow vanished and was replaced with a recognition that I am loved and eternity awaits where all the sorrows and regrets of this world will evaporate. We will die to this mortal life, but God promises, something infinitely better awaits those who love and trust in Him.
In the meantime, amidst the sorrow of this world, is also great joy. There is so much beauty God has spread before us like a banquet. A feast of magnificence, but it will pass away. He, on the other hand, is always there, was always there, and will always be there.