Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Week Away From Home

Do you ever look forward to being by yourself? I mean totally alone, not talking to anyone and just losing yourself in the book you’re either reading or writing?

That’s the way I was feeling last week after finally finishing an extremely difficult Pathophysiology and Pharmacology class. And since I was headed for Reno on the train, to attend a week of training for cancer registrars, I was looking forward to the evenings after class when I could sit back and relax with my book. The one I’m writing, not the one I’m reading.

Little did I know….

The class was intense, and we had a lot of homework each evening. This meant a day that started at 8:00 in the morning usually ended at about 10:30 at night. By then I was much too tired to write. I can’t complain about it, however, because I learned so much and I know I’ll be able to apply it to my job. I learned about new resources and new ways to do the absolute best job I can.

Not only that, but our class was small—twelve students. I’m fairly shy, and it’s hard for me to feel comfortable in a group, but this group…it was different. I’m not sure why, but we all bonded immediately, and even though you would never find me saying so much as “boo” in a group that large (okay, I know I just said it was small, but a group of twelve is about nine people too many for me to feel comfortable saying anything) I found myself asking questions and even cracking an occasional joke. And my jokes must not have been too bad, because people laughed.

So what were the benefits of a week of exhaustion with barely any sleep, and no time for writing? The obvious one was the educational benefit for my job. But perhaps even bigger, was the benefit of knowing I could speak out loud in a group of strangers. I could talk and laugh and (gasp!), be myself and no horrible fate would befall me. That was actually quite an eye opening experience.

But as I bid Reno goodbye this morning, I looked forward to two train rides. Both would be about four hours each, with three hours in-between transfers. Lots of time for writing. Right?

Dream on.

My plan at the station was to stick my ear-buds in and listen to Christian music while I typed away at the keyboard. The ear-buds are actually an effective tool in ensuring you’re left alone when you’re in public. However, God had other plans for me.

I settled myself down to wait for the first train, and before I even had the ear-buds out of my bag, a woman sat down next to me. She looked to be about my mother’s age, and seemed a little lost. I don’t mean physically lost, just…lost. They had just announced the train would be at least an hour late, which meant we’d miss breakfast on the train. I offered the lady a granola bar, and she accepted. At that point, I didn’t feel I could very well turn on my music and ignore her. Besides, I felt this nagging in my heart, a feeling she needed someone to talk to. And at the same time, another voice whispered frantically in my ear, “But I need to write!”

Still, something about the woman tugged at me. I remembered that catch phrase from a few years back, “What would Jesus do?” He certainly wouldn’t ignore someone who appeared to need someone to talk to. Besides, I could always write on the train. We had a pleasant chat while we waited for the train, but Jane never said anything significant to confirm my feeling she needed to talk to someone. When the train finally came, we said goodbye and I went to my assigned car.

I must have misread things. Maybe Jane didn't need to talk after all.

Then, just as I settled in, Jane appeared behind me. And when the train began to fill up, she came to sit beside me. I hadn’t pulled out either my computer or ear-buds yet, and I wasn’t about to in front of her. She needed someone. I felt it again, more strongly than before. God was nudging me toward her.

As we traveled along, Jane started talking again. She was on her way to visit her son. This was her first trip in over ten years. When she said that, her eyes filled with tears. Her husband grew ill ten years ago, she explained. He was diagnosed with emphysema, followed by diabetes, followed by heart problems, and then finally followed by lung cancer.

The tears spilled freely when Jane said, in a choked up voice, “I lost him in March.”

Had I heard her right? March? But wait. This is April 3rd. There hasn’t been enough time for her to even get used to the fact that her husband is gone. My instincts were right. She needed to talk.

My eyes filled with tears along with hers, and I reached out and patted her hand. She clung to me, a stranger. When she let go, I gave her a tissue and thanked the Lord I listened to the still, small voice in my heart and spent time talking with her. Later on the trip, she told me her daughter died of lung cancer in December. First she lost her daughter, and then her husband. How does someone deal with two such terrible losses in a row?

Jane shared a lot of things with me on that four hour trip and by the time we said goodbye, I had a new friend.

As for my missed writing time? I more than made up for it on the next train as we sat on the tracks just outside of Sacramento while they repaired a broken rail up ahead.

All I can say is I’m glad they found the broken track before we traveled over it.

God truly ministered to me on this trip. Though I wanted to do nothing but learn while I was in class and write when I wasn’t, God had other plans for me. I did learn. And I made so many new friends. I learned how to speak up and feel comfortable in a group.

And though I knew it before, I was reminded again that when I take the time to listen to that still small voice inside me, the voice I know as the Holy Spirit, I will be blessed. Today I was. I hope my new friend, Jane, was blessed as well.


  1. Oh Suzie, that's precious! Those kinds of experiences are answers to our prayers to be used by the Lord for His glory. And I expect you'll get that "lost" time back in triplicate for your obedience to the voice of the Spirit within!

  2. Suzie,I know the Lord is pleased with you for being His presence to that precious soul. Thank you for the reminder!

  3. Bless you for being obedient and listening to that still small voice. What a beautiful way for the Lord to use you to minister to Jane, just to listen and offer comfort. To be there for her, a stranger, when she so desperately needed someone. I agree with Diane, thank you for the reminder.

  4. Thank you, Niki, Diane, and Sharon. You all brightened my day with your comments. I'm sorry to be so late answering, though. I've been way behind on everything.

  5. Suzie,
    YOU GO GIRL! I loved your story. And I'm sure that Jane is grateful for your decision to take the time and talk. What an awesome trip. It reminds me of times when I was flying or in airports and just wanted to write and utilize my time well. And then God whispered and you know what happened. :) I'm glade you had some wonderful experiences on your trip. Now, BREATHE and relax and dream.

  6. Great post, Suzie! what a story. I know exactly how you feel. I'd be happy to go away and have all that 'time to myself' and my first thought would be disappointment to have to make small talk. Thankfully you followed the other voice. What a blessing.

    I'm so glad you had a great trip!

  7. Thanks Jill! Thanks Deb! It's nice to know people who understand how important that time to myself is, and how hard it is to give it up when situations occur. I'm gladt hat I listened, though. And it did turn out to be a blessing.