A Journey to My Past, Present and Future

By on January 1, 2012

By Prudence Lay –

Although Christmas is past for another few months, I am reminded of the story “A Christmas Carol” as I think about a recent journey God sent me on. Now, I am no Ebenezer Scrooge, I adore Christmas and try to keep it in my heart all year. The lesson from the movie comes in valuing relationships and how short our time here on earth really is. You see, my trip involved looking into my past, thinking about my present and dreaming of a bright future filled with few regrets. Come with me as I take you on my journey of the heart.

Two years ago the death of my oldest brother, Richard, started me on an unlikely journey. His untimely passing at age 65 from cancer caused me to begin to evaluate what is truly important in this life that I am blessed with. As I grieved his loss and dealt with family issues that his death revealed, I had to face the fact that this scenario was going to become more common as the years passed. So, like the good planner that I am, I got busy planning to stop missing my life and to stop making excuses for not experiencing some of the things that I really could (with some help from family and God) make happen.

You see, I have two remaining brothers – who are both in their 60’s, and when I saw them at my oldest brothers funeral, I realized I hadn’t spend much time in their company in the past 10 years. I vowed that it would not be another funeral that brought us together. I live in Oregon, my brother Chris is in Alaska, and my brother Tim in Ohio, where I grew up. In 2010, I made a trip to Alaska to see Chris and family and had an absolutely amazing time. (He has lived there for over 30 years and this was my first trip, I am ashamed to say.) I will save that story for another time.

In October of 2011, I determined to make a trip back east to see Tim and his family. I have nieces and nephews there that have married and have children of their own that I have never met. SIGH. I realized that if I was going to fly all the way across the country, at significant cost, I was going to need to make this trip truly count. I was going to start in Ohio with my brother and nieces and nephews, then drive to Washington, DC to see another of those nephews.

As I began to plot and plan, I realized that I had a cousin and a niece in Raleigh, NC whom I hadn’t seen in approximately 27 years. (Unbelievable – as my cousin and I used to share birthday parties). I also have a good friend in Southport, NC who I knew would love to visit and a friend in Nashville, TN that I didn’t want to miss. Then I realized that one of the lovely contributors to LivingBetterat50+ lives in Kentucky, only a 50 mile detour from my route back to Ohio and I began to see that this trip was going to be BIG.

I plotted out my driving route, planned the amount of time I would need, contacted all my family and friends, coordinated schedules and realized I would need to be gone three weeks. I had to chew on that one for a while….three weeks is a chunk of time, but I knew in my heart that God wanted me to take this trip.

As I spent time in Ohio visiting family and childhood friends, my heart remembered growing up here. I realized that the place you called home during childhood or at turning points in your life will always have a special place in your heart and be part of your “home”. Beyond that, I recognized that Oregon is truly home for me now. I have lived, loved and raised my children there for the past 28 years – Oregon is home for my spirit.

As I continued my journey to other states and visited with my relatives and their families, I was surprised how comfortable we felt with each other. I spent time with my brother, a Vietnam War veteran at “The Wall” in DC.  We shared memories of a friend who didn’t come home and found his name etched along with countless others. Even with so many passing years and various life experiences, the common bond of memories was still a strong tie to start conversations. My cousin, Jane, confided in me that she was a bit worried about my visit because so many years had passed. As it turned out, we have more in common now than we did 30 years ago. We had a wonderful time looking at old family photos, sharing laughs and even sorrows about some of the tough times.

As I drove to Asheville, NC to meet with my precious friend Lisa from Nashville, I had to fight off some fear. I was in unfamiliar territory with only God to guide me. What happened? The Lord showed up (as He always will if you ask Him to) and reminded me that He would not ask me to go somewhere or do anything that He had not equipped me for. I kept reminding myself of that when anxiety would rise up and threaten to overwhelm me. Lisa went out of her way to drive from Nashville to meet me, arranged lodging at a lovely hotel and treated me to a lovely dinner. My only regret was it was too short, but the lesson here is that a short visit is better than no visit at all. We are both looking forward to our next visit (hopefully in Oregon!)

From Asheville, I drove to Southport, NC to spend a few days relaxing with my lovely friend Diana. We spent time relaxing on the beach, walking and catching up. How special this time was for both of us. I felt so blessed by her generosity (she gave me her bed to sleep in!), but you know what – she told me on the day I left that she felt so special and blessed that I would drive that distance and spend that time with her.

Vicki and I at Carter Caves

The last leg of my trip was to drive from NC back to Cleveland for my flight home to Portland. I broke the journey in Grayson, KY to spend a fabulous 24 hours with our awesome contributor Vicki Boster. Vicki and I had developed a friendship online and over the phone and I was not going to miss a chance to actually meet her! What an amazing time! Once again, I drove to a place I had never been and stayed with people I had never met. I realized very quickly though, that our hearts “knew” one another, and that made all the difference in the world. Vicki and her husband went way out of their way to show me the greatest time in 24 hours. We even squeezed in a trip to Carter Caves (wonderful) and I got to get coconut cream pie from a truck stop featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives! Most special was the time I spent with Vicki while she created in her “Sacred Yarn Room” where she creates beautiful items with yarn. I am confident Vicki and I will meet again soon.

As I drove back to Cleveland, I shed some tears over the many opportunities I have missed in my life to be blessed by and to bless the people. I was also a bit sad knowing that I may not travel this way again soon and it might be quite some time before I saw any of these precious individuals face to face again. I realized what amazing friends I have and that family is always family no matter how much water has flowed under the bridge. I resolved to find a way to stay in touch and not let so much time go by without re-connecting. I will no longer play the game of “well, they haven’t called me” or “they should make more effort” or “I don’t have the time”. My answer to the above is, “so what”, “I’ll make the effort” and “I’ll find the time”. The people in your life will love and appreciate it more than you know, and for this adventurer, I have peace that I will have fewer regrets in my future than I do in regard to my past.

When I began this trip, I pondered in my heart what the Lord would have for me on this grand journey of the heart and miles. As it turned out, He had more that I could have ever dreamed. As well as precious memories, friendships made stronger, and new friendships formed, God reminded me that with Him I am strong, courageous, victorious and I need not live a fearful closed off life. He showed me that the people I love and value actually love and value me too. I encourage you to open your heart – even if there are wounds – and take a chance on life, love and connections. The joy and healing you receive may change your future. Thank you Ebenezer for a very valuable lesson in life no matter what season it is. And may God bless us – every one!

About Prudence Lay

With more than three decades of home interior design and international travel experience, Prudence Lay has developed a sharp eye for how to create inviting living environments and adventurous travel experiences. Currently Prudence and her family reside in Sisters.

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A Journey to My Past, Present and Future