I look out of a slightly smudged window and wish I had some Windex, smirking at the irony of it all. I’ve been trying to make out my destiny through cloudy glass for some time now. My destination has been made much more clear as of late. I thought I had finished my life’s greatest work, only to find that I’ve only just begun. The train jolts then creeps forward. I say goodbye to everything near and dear and hello to the exciting unknown, I will be farther from home than ever before. I feel like a girl leaving for college, except that I am forty-four years old, and my face shows years of pain and smiles and now an unexpected emotion, surprise. I thought I was used up and empty…I guess I was wrong.
Soon I am in another state; both in geography and mind. Amtrak has very wisely planned for Iowa and Nebraska to be in the dark, and that is where I have been…in the dark. Ordinary, everyday, hardworking dark. And next morning after sleeping beside a strange man, bright sunshine makes alive every sensation I have. I wake in Denver. The air sparkles with the expectation of rising higher than I’ve ever been before.
The mile-high city lays at the foot of a new and different world, and the train lurches forward to meet it. In a matter of minutes I have gone from looking east as far as the eye can see to facing west, and my future, with only a wall of rock in front of me. The train leans toward a precipice. The dizzy sensation I have when I look down feels familiar. I resume an upward gaze. The train works to climb, and gravity resists the change in altitude. We go through a tunnel…an eleven minute tunnel. All is dark, and the weight of a mountain presses in on every side. I try to imagine I’m in a traffic tunnel on the Kennedy expressway back home. It is the only way I do not panic.I wonder if this is how Lot’s wife felt when she looked longingly at the life she left behind. I exhale in relief when bright sunshine flashes before us, craning my neck to look forward and see my future, instead I can’t see the forest for the trees.
The soil gets redder and the air drier, until all that surrounds me is parched. Have I been on a train or a rocket ship? Because I’d swear this was Mars. No life as far as the eye can see. Only strange and forlorn rock formations. I can not help but wonder what happened here. Was it always this way? How long have I been here? Time stands still in this place, for there is nothing to measure it but the scorching, searing, sun. I am desperate for change.
Night falls in Utah. Train stops in Salt Lake City. There are no cabs to be found. Eleven p.m. looks very different in Salt Lake City than it does in Chicago. A small group of college kids party at the end of the block. I call my hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service. They don’t, but they are coming to get me anyway. I waddle through the door of my room, drop my bags and wear my loneliness like a robe. I’ve never stayed in a hotel room alone before. The room is fabulous, but all I can think about is how much my family would be enjoying this trip…the family I feel like I am leaving behind. But truth be told, they leave me behind for their bright and bold futures.
I crash on the bed and sit up hours later in the early morning light. I make my way across town, suitcase in tow. I’m the minority here, a Christian in a Mormon world. It’s Sunday morning and I wait for a shuttle bus at the LDS convention center. Everyone ignores a bum asking for money. They are late for Sunday morning service. I bow my head in recognition. I’ve done this, been too busy serving God to notice how I might best serve Him. I walk over and offer the man a few protein bars. He gladly receives them.
My fellow passenger is a very enthusiastic Mormon convert who is determined to convert me. My spirit pleads with God while conversing pleasantly, desperate to show this young man a different Jesus than he knows. We pray for one another as we cross a bridge popular for bungy jumping. I free fall, not knowing how to land, but trusting His arms to catch me.
I am met at the airport in Boise by a temporary stranger. A lovely lady. She shows me around town and feeds me homemade soup that heals my soul. I am looking forward to tomorrow and learning about my new life as an Executive Director with Love, INC.
I wake to the smell of coffee and my new friend and I have a sticky communion of waffles with syrup and cold milk. Different than crackers and wine. It is then that I recognize it. The blur comes into focus. For I’ve been on holy ground the whole time. Holy ground on the train embarking on a new life. Holy ground in Iowa and Nebraska in the dark but trusting the conductor to help me arrive at my destination. Holy ground in the mountains when the journey is frightening and I could not see ahead. Holy ground in the desert when my soul thirsted for Him and Him alone. Holy ground on the mission field when I was alone, but never alone. Holy ground when I grieved for the end of era, the end of a role. Holy ground in the making of a new friend…All is holy when you see through the Planner’s eyes, because He’s planned for it all. Mistakes and everything.
Won’t you join me next week to hear about my ride home?
Won’t you join me on Fridays for a new series and linkup called, “Take Off Your Shoes, You’re On Holy Ground!” or TOYS? Each week a post will be shared about the significance of a place and you will be able to share as well!! Just 1) Write a post about how a place has ministered to you. 2) Add your post to the linkup. 3) Add the button to your post. 4)Visit and encourage your neighbors!