Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read books. I have read everything from silly books for children all the way up to incredibly intense books on the Holocaust. I find that the harder the book, the more thankful I am for those blank pages between chapters. Sometimes, I need to stare at a white page and deal with what I just read. Skipping over those empty pages too quickly can make my brain spin and I start to lose contact with what I’m reading.
If my life is like a book, then the chapter of living in Colorado was written with a lot of mixed emotions. It was an incredibly good move for our family. I’ll never be sorry for our time there. However, before life even began to settle down in Colorado, everything went sideways. We had massive financial struggles that were thankfully not of our own doing. Jake’s health problems became evident and within the first two days after our move, he and I raced off to what would be the first of many trips to the emergency room for severe dehydration and croup. My chronic pain went from a dull ache and a minor inconvenience to a full-fledged scream. As we worked through all those problems, we found that in a heavily military town, it was tough to make and keep friends. Every time we did make a good connection, they would move or my pain would increase to such a level that I would kind of disappear for a while without really being able to explain why. (Pain is a mysterious thing to people who aren’t dealing with it all the time!)
I will write a lot more about all of this later, but I am confident that God had His hand on us in a very special way while we were in Colorado. I had a lot of lessons to learn and I’m thankful to have learned them!
Having left Southern California with the joke that I was leaving just in time to still have lived in Washington for longer than California, I’m sure you can imagine my amusement when the transfer for Greg’s job came through loud and clear for California. I laughed and decided that maybe I could be a California Girl after all and a few short weeks later, we packed up and hit the road.
Not even an hour out of Colorado Springs, a flare up of my chronic pain hit hard. I apologized to Greg for not being a better passenger, took some medicine, and dozed for the next two hours. When I woke up, my crazy and busy brain was quiet. It hadn’t been quiet for months.
I decided I probably deserved an hour of relaxing before I dug out my to do lists and started making plans for after our landing in Lodi. At the end of the hour, I started to pull out my huge moving binder, but I let it slide back under the seat and I stared out the window for another hour.
I was to spend most of the next three days in exactly that position. My mind was quiet, my heart was content, Greg decided he liked driving when there was no pressure to get anywhere at a certain time, the dogs passed out, and Jake either quietly kicked the back of my seat or slept. I was happy to just be with my family and to watch our little section of the world fly by us.
There was something quite cathartic about this sign:
Colorado was officially behind us! I cried a little when we left Colorado Springs, but the tears fell heavy and hard when I saw this sign. They were peaceful tears knowing that a difficult chapter was closed for good.
Even though Colorado was behind us, snow was still in the forecast for our drive. I am straight up terrified of driving in the snow after a few very bad experiences. We stayed in Wyoming the second night and when I got up to walk the dogs, the entire terrain was one solid sheet of ice. My stomach started to hurt and I prayed that we would be safe.
This wasn’t the most comforting thing to see when we got on the road:
But, before long, the ice and snow stopped and we spent another good day of hauling ourselves across the country. We crossed the beautiful Utah and eventually made it to Nevada. As we unloaded the car, my coat, my sweatshirt, long-sleeved shirt, my socks, and shoes were all left in a pile by the door of our hotel. I finished unloading the car barefoot and happy.
The third day on the road was the toughest since we were all a little restless. Jack eventually calmed down into his usual strange position:
Lucy wanted to hold my hand:
She eventually got herself calmed down enough to sleep in some pretty hilarious positions.
Jake was our sweet little guy most of the time and he had a ready smile whenever I got out my camera. Even if he did have to smile around the dogs most of the time.
Our final day of travel got us from Nevada, up and over Donner Pass (another part of the trip that had caused me nightmares), into California and home to Lodi.
It wasn’t long before we saw a very happy sign:
I knew that once we hit California, the Donner Pass was close. In case you’ve been living on Mars for the last 100 years, Donner Pass is famous for immensely unpredictable weather. The Pass wasn’t originally called the Donner Pass, but became known by that name because of the famous Donner Party who were trapped on the pass in the late 1800’s, when a massive snow storm trapped them for months. They eventually resorted to cannibalism to survive. As we got near the pass, Greg and I jokingly ranked the inhabitants of our car from most to least edible. I was number two on the list, second only to our beefy Lucy.
Even though the weather was light rain mixed with snow, the sight of six-foot high walls of snow was daunting. Greg drove the whole way through and I focused on trying to un-tense myself.
We hit the summit and the drive was going very well. I reviewed my pictures of that particular stretch of road and I took about a dozen of the signs that designated areas for chains to be removed. I didn’t realize how relieved I was that we were off the pass until much later.
We stopped just at the edge of the pass for lunch. By that time, the light rain turned into a steady downpour. Jake and Greg ran for the shelter of Subway, while I took the dogs out for a quick run. I thought we would only be out a few minutes, but the air was warm and I ended up standing still with my face held up to the rain. It had been months since I’d seen rain! I was so glad to be out of winter that I felt a little like Lucy realizing that Spring had come at last to Narnia.
The next 20 pictures on my camera were all of the elevation signs. Since a lot of my chronic pain had to do with living at 7,500 feet above sea level, I was ecstatic to watch the elevation drop.
We were only another hour or so out from Lodi, so it wasn’t very long before being in the right state became being in the right county and finally, we were in the right town.
Jake and his beloved Copper were pretty excited to see our “newhousehome”.
When we planned out our trip, a lot of people made fun of us for taking three and a half days to make the drive. We heard people brag about how fast they made that trip. It was hard to explain to people that with my pain levels, 140 pounds of hot, smelly dog and a four-year old who only recently had been potty trained, we were probably wise to take it slow.
I think in the days of modern travel, we do ourselves a disservice in not taking our time on journeys. We rush from one chapter of our life, slamming those pages shut and racing to the next chapter as quickly as possible. There are times we desperately need to take the slow boat to the next part of our lives. We need those days of quiet when there is nothing to do and we have space for our weary souls. There is a special kind of healing for a special kind of pain that can only take place in that space. I needed those days to shed my tears, lay down my burdens, and to pray prayers that were unintelligible to myself but that God understood.
Everyone else can take their land speed records through that 1200 miles and I will be absolutely happy and content that we took our time.
Ironically, we were about to get a whole bunch of quiet and rest since our moving truck got delayed by more than a week and a half.
Almost three months later, I look back on our time between chapters and I am so deeply thankful for that part of our journey! It was worth every slow mile.