Yum Yum purred as my husband, Chuck, steered our big motorhome onto Interstate 84. He cheered. “Here we go! Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I can almost taste the lobster.”
“Nothing but fun on the open road for six whole months. I just hope we didn’t forget anything.” I petted Yum Yum and reviewed our provisions: The map of the U.S. with Post-Its on each planned stop; check. Clothes for different climates; check. Food, books, journals; check.
Chuck and I had both retired early and we’d been planning and dreaming of this trip for years. I knew I’d miss our family, church, Bible study friends, and my various non-profit volunteer jobs, but after working hard for so long, we deserved a vacation.
Each day was glorious as we traveled through the northern states visiting wineries, extended family, and the hot springs of Thermopolis, WY. I’ll never forget enjoying our morning coffee in the mountains of Montana with hot air balloons floating overhead in a stunning display.
Mount Rushmore was awe-inspiring. But as we pulled back onto the highway, a nagging angst and sadness stirred inside me. I confessed to Chuck, “I knew I’d miss our kids and grandkids back home. But this sad anxiety I’m feeling is different than that. I can’t put my finger on what’s causing it.”
“Maybe visiting your mom’s hometown and meeting your Texas family in Erie will help you feel better,” Chuck said.
“Yeah, maybe.” I petted Yum Yum for comfort.
Researching family history and exploring with my beloved Texas relatives was fun. Visiting churches along the way eased my stress, especially when we made our way to see pastors we knew. But my sense of unease lingered.
In Ohio, we discovered that the starter cable on our motorhome needed replacing. Luckily, we found a beautiful place to camp near the lake at Punderson State Park. In the morning we drove to the nearby township of Burton to locate the cable and discovered that most of the stores in the tiny town were closed for the weekend. We'd have to come back Monday.
I drove the truck around Burton’s quaint town park. “Hey look. It’s a Maple Syrup Sugar Cabin. Let’s stop.”
Chuck argued, "Judging by the empty parking lot it's not worth stopping. I'd rather go back to the campground."
"Aw, come on. Wouldn't you love a sweet taste of maple syrup?" I drove past the cabin two more times until Chuck finally relented.
Inside the dimly lit cabin a sad looking old woman sat in silence. She flipped a switch to turn on some Appalachian music and said, "I suppose you want to sample the maple."
“Yes, Ma’am," I said. When she turned to ready the samples, I frowned at Chuck. He shrugged and began chatting about our travels to try and lighten the mood. I joined him, but it didn't seem to make much difference.
She glared as she handed us our first taste of maple syrup. We told her how delicious it was and continued chatting.
Then suddenly, she began to pour out her broken heart. “My husband of 50 plus years passed away just five months ago.” She grabbed a picture to show me and exclaimed, "Isn't he handsome!”
“Now the whole town and my family are talking about the numerous affairs he had.” She scowled. “In spite of them, I never felt second best. I know he loved me, and it doesn’t matter what they say or think.”
I felt burdened by her heartbreak as she went on to tell us that she was angry at the whole world and particularly at men. She frowned. “Maybe it’s time to stop mourning and just move on.”
Chuck was new to his faith, but I wasn’t too surprised when my kind, gentle husband asked her if we could pray.
She accepted with tears in her eyes. We gathered close to hold hands and Chuck prayed about God's faithfulness and love. With our heads bowed I saw the lady’s tears splashing onto a piece of yellow paper below the counter and I imagined her grief and pain easing as each teardrop fell.
When Chuck said amen, I noticed that her demeanor had brightened. “Thank you so much.” She looked him in the eyes. Then turned to me, “I can’t thank you enough for coming in today. I know that God sent you here at just the right moment to help me begin to heal.” She thanked us again and again as we made our way to the door.
As we drove away, I was surprised to find that the anxiety I had been suffering with was gone. “Now I understand why I’ve felt so much angst on this trip. I’ve been seeking only pleasure, but God created me to give. Helping that dear lady has taken my anxiety away.”
Chuck smiled. “Maybe God directed us to stop right here.”
“Yeah. Maybe the starter cable broke just so we’d help her through this difficult time in her life. In fact, maybe our whole trip across the country was designed just so we could minister to that hurting soul.”
I felt renewed by what I’d learned, and as we traveled I kept my eyes peeled for more opportunities to help others. But, even if it had all been only for the lady serving maple samples in the township of Burton, it would have been worth every mile.
Luke 6:38 “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Lorna Atkins was born in sunny Southern California. In her mid teens she moved to the beautiful, but cold and wet Pacific Northwest. Life was good, but she never adjusted to the weather. So, after 50 years, she and her husband made the bold move to the great state of Texas. Having lived there as a child and visiting family many, many times over the years they both knew it was the right move for them. Lorna is passionate about her two grown children and spouses, her 12 grandchildren, and her extended family both near and far. She spends a great deal of time finding ways to stay connected and creating connections.
Lorna loves animals (especially cats), music, learning new things, entertaining,decorating, and planning events. Retired now, she enjoys looking for ways to keep incorporating the things she enjoys into her life and in her new community.