"The choices we make change
the story of our life." ©

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

 

"Let's Take a Road Trip!"



Day Two of Six
July 4, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

Warning: This post is not for the weak or faint hearted. You may get carsick!

Back to the “end” which is really the “beginning” . . . (continued from Day 1):

Did you ever take a road trip that you wished would never end? My trip in May to Stowe, Vermont was ONE of the “never-want-to-end” road trips! I followed 87N all the way up to catch the last ferry across Lake Champlain (just 26 miles from the Canadian border). Along the way I had lots of company—breathtaking scenery along each curve, surrounded by the Catskills and the primeval forests of the Adirondacks with more than 2,500 lakes and ponds including: Lake Saranac and Lake Placid. Everywhere I looked there was more blue sky and open road. I sang, clapped my hands (yes, I was the driver!), whistled a few songs (I can’t sing), prayed (with my eyes wide open), and took pictures with my digital camera (please don’t try this at home—I mean in your car!). I called my husband from my final destination, the von Trapp Family Lodge (remember: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die)and said, “I’m not coming home!” Mark didn’t even “flinch” because he has heard me say the same thing—at least 1,000 times!

I was in Vermont for the Weekend of Hope for cancer survivors and their families giving a therapeutic writing workshop. Each year the Stowe Community opens their hearts and their resorts to “survivors’ for a weekend of hope and healing (including the renown von Trapp Family Lodge). The entire weekend, I was Maria von Trapp singing (whistling): “The hills are alive . . .”

Not all my road trips have been so lovely! On a moonless night on March 7, 1996, I took a “short-cut” and ended up on a country back road in Lancaster County, PA (to get a better idea where I live, you can rent the movie “Witness”). The two-lane road quickly turned into one lane, through a covered bridge, and then abruptly ended in a “dirt” path. When I looked up, I was facing a “Dead End” sign! I laid my head on the steering wheel and cried out to God, “I can’t keep on like this—you have to do something!” That sign represented my life: I too had come to a dead end. For months—maybe years—I had experienced a “gnawing” sense of emptiness. I was tired, irritable, restless, and overly discontented with life in general. It was a “secret” I kept hidden from the world. After all I was a former missionary and pastor’s wife. Everyone looked to me for counsel and guidance, but I was running on “fumes”!

I asked God for help, but “help” came in the form of an unexpected package. Isn’t that how all U-Turns begin—at a point of desperation—when we’ve used up all of our “natural” resources? Two weeks—to the day—after pleading with God for “help,” I was waiting for biopsy results from the surgeon’s office. In a monotone voice the surgeon said, “You have breast cancer.” I was in shock! I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I screamed, “What did I do wrong?” I was 40 years old—in the best shape of my life—running and working out every day, eating “tofu” (when no one else knew what it was), and drank bottled water! What could I have possibly done to “deserve” cancer?

The following weeks found me numb as I tried to absorb the shock of a life-threatening illness. My greatest fear: not being around to see our boys—ages 9 and 14—through safe passage into adulthood.

I struggled through surgery, treatment, and six weeks of radiation. On the outside, I kept up an “it’s okay façade,” but inside I was crumbling. I would leave on my 45-minute lunch break with my familiar jingle: “Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go—can’t be late to radiate!” So deeply entrenched in denial, I asked the hospital staff if they could possibly make a “well” waiting room for those of us who didn’t need to be brought in by ambulance or wheelchair. After all, I wasn’t like “them”! I was perfectly fine—I just had “cancer.”

On the last day of radiation, the doctor sauntered into the exam room and exclaimed, “You’ve completed all the treatments successfully, but I need to go over a ‘few’ more things before you leave.” What happened next is still a blur, but I remember the words “survival rate” and “mortality” being used in the same sentence. I don’t remember walking out into the hospital parking lot or even how I drove home that night. But I do remember the following weeks found me numb—depression had replaced fear.

After several weeks in my despondent state, my husband sent me off to California to visit my folks. They took one look at me (a skeleton with a zombie-like gaze) and realized they had their work cut out for them!

During those seven days I stared out the window and watched the movie “City Slickers” with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. I caught ONE phrase in the entire film. These “businessmen” were on a quest—to find out what they were missing in life. They were trying to escape the “tollbooth attendants” for another life on “horseback.” Curly (Jack Palance’s character) shakes his bony finger at “Mitch” (played by Billy Crystal) and says, “This ONE thing!” And Billy Crystal, in a confused state, says, “What thing?” Curly retorts, “It’s for you to find out!”

I repeated that line over and over again, “This ONE thing!” until I boarded US “Scare-Ways,” on my way back to Pennsylvania, where I rocked back and forth for six hours (the flight attendants and other passengers didn’t have any trouble avoiding me!).

My husband picked me up at the Baltimore Washington Airport—his eyes glazed over from lack of sleep. I caught his expression as he looked into my blank eyes. I knew what he was thinking, Where’s my wife, where did she go?

As we drove up the driveway to our home, I realized the backyard had been perfectly landscaped: there were colorful flowerbeds were mounds of dirt had been and in the center—a beautiful pink dogwood tree. I whispered, “What’s this?” Mark reached over to grab my hand and said, “This is our tree of life; we’re starting a new beginning. God hasn’t brought us this far just to leave us!” For the first time in weeks, I saw a glimmer of hope—it was brief, but it was there!

One afternoon as I looked out the window at that beautiful tree in full bloom I asked myself this ONE question, “What if I had a year to live—what would I do?” I randomly wrote down 27 things I wanted to do before I died! That would become my passionate to-do list: spend more time with family and friends, take a vacation to Maine, go on a cruise, visit friends in Italy, write a book, and #27—parachute out of an airplane!

That was ten years ago and today, I have accomplished everything on my list except ONE thing: parachute out of an airplane (You are all welcome to join me with your parachutes if you like), but I reserve the right to decline!

Although I can’t imagine re-living the events of the past ten years, I can’t imagine my life without them! There were mentors along each turn of my “road trip” that showed me what this “ONE” thing was . . . putting the “Passion-Giver” first! I had been so busy controlling my life, I forgot who was “in control.” God knew exactly what He was doing . . . I finally let go and let “Jesus Take the Wheel!”

Thought for the Day: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” —Annie Dillard

From God’s Word: “I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you” (Joshua 1:5, The Message).

Are you headed in the wrong direction, are you facing a dead end, do you need to make a U-Turn? Just remember this “ONE” thing . . .

Tomorrow: “Back to the Future” . . . fasten your seatbelts!

Living Life Passionately,


Connie Pombo
My Blog: Living Passionately!

Postscript: A note was pasted on the double-glass doors of the gym this morning: “In honor of the birth of our country’s independence, we will be closed.” As you travel on the roads and gather with your families for a picnic, remember this ONE thing: God has set us FREE! Have a glorious Fourth of July!
Allison
Comments:
I am "right where you are" ... I have just left a position in a Fortune 500 company after 31 years (not by choice): however, I know that before me is an open door and the "postings" are just the encouragement I need (so like God to meet me where I am). Eager to read the next entry!
 
HI Connie! I enjoyed reading your blog. Vermont truly is beautiful; took a drive there once to watch a field hockey game. You are such an inspiration. I am making my list right now of things that I want to do before I die! Peace, Teri Newell
 
Bobbi,

I said a prayer for you this morning--transitions are always difficult, especially after 31 years. I know, I was in the medical field for 20 plus years and it took a lot of courage to change gears, but it has been the best decision of my life! God has something so much greater than you could think or ask, waiting just around the bend!

Please keep me up-to-date via my website at Women's Mentoring Ministries.

Blessings,

Connie
 
Hi Teri!

You keep writing that list! Do you know I've actually gone on trips without leaving town. Part of the fun is making the list; I've researched places I've never been to. Get the book: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (the excerpts are short--not like my U-Turn blog entries!). So good to hear from you!!!

Blessings,

Connie
 
Hi Connie. Isn't strange when faced with unexpected hardships, we ask, "Why me?" At twenty-six I learned to ask the question, "Why not me?" Life looked bleak after my husband suddenly died. I was wallowing in self pity, trying not to sink into the pit of despair. God showed me, (and he still is), that no matter what we face in life, when we know him as Savior, he will be with us and help us! He may not always help us out of a our trial, but he promises to help us through it! As a young child, I learned a Bible verse during family devotions that helped me (and still does) when I felt like I was drowning in sorrow. It was our family's life verse and has guided me on the twists and turns of life's journey. "And the Lord, he it is who doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed." We will all face adversity at some point (sometimes many points) in our life here on earth. Which way will we turn when it happens? I choose to turn to the joy-giver, the strength of my life, my Lord Jesus Christ and I'm so glad to know another one of his children who has done the same!
Love ya Connie!!!
Susan Skitt
God Allows U-Turns for Women
"A Test of Faith"
 
Susan,

I love your attitude, "Why not me?" Your triumph over tragedy reflects the attitude that we are to have in Christ! Your life has been an inspiration to me and so many others, and I'm so thankful that our paths crossed through our writing (in and out of the "tollbooths"!). God bless you!

Blessings,

Connie
 
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