Tag Archives: treasure

And That’s Why the Cows were Out

Recently, I lost one of my closest friends to cancer; she was just a few years older than me and she fought a very brave battle for as long as she could. It was tough battle complicated by other health issues, that left her very weak and tired. I tried to be there for her but I will always feel that I should have done more. Because of her strong faith in Jesus, she was not afraid of death. She knew without a doubt that she was going to heaven. So, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, August 31, 2017 my friend Cindy B. passed away.

A certain scripture soon came to mind from John 14:2-3 where Jesus is speaking to his disciples, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go there to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will also come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am.” So, in my heart I know, that very early Thursday morning, Jesus came by to take my friend Cindy B. to live in her new glorious home in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

Now memories of her flood my mind along with the image of her smile, the sound of her voice and her laughter. Also came to mind are favorite stories and special moments we have shared over the years of an enduring friendship. One story came to mind which I have decided to share. It is a peculiar tale that I have always remembered.

 Cindy and I had been friends for a long time: we had met at Hope Baptist Church in 1988 shortly after I had moved to the Mankato area to attend Mankato State University. Little did I know then that Cindy and I would be lifelong friends.  And we were more than friends, we also were sisters in Christ while attending the same church for years as we both continued to grow in our faith. Over the years we would sometimes go on little adventures. Cindy would say something like, “I want to get out of Mankato for a day.”

And being the agreeable friend that I was, I would respond, “Sure, where should we go?”

And so, began our little Sunday trips to Fairibault just to eat at the Golden Calf Corral.  They had a baked potato and salad buffet that we both enjoyed.  On one such bright Sunday after church, we once again headed to Fairibault. As we drove along the scenic country Highway 60, we suddenly became aware of cattle roaming about on both sides of the road. They clearly had escaped their fenced pasture.

Cindy was instantly worried, “Oh no, what should we do?”

“About the cows?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Cindy,” I responded, “I don’t know how to herd them back into the pen. And I certainly can’t do that alone.  I don’t even know where the fence may be broken or how to fix it. When the farmer sees his cattle out he will take care of them.”

This did nothing to subside Cindy’s concern about the wandering animals who continued to walk along the road and into some nearby fields munching away on tall blades of grass, “Well, at least we should tell the farmer.”

“As soon as the farmer looks out the window or comes outside to do chores, he will see that his cows are out and will herd them back into their pen.”

“We should still tell the farmer.”

“Ok, Cindy,” I answered with a hint of exasperation in my voice, “we’ll find the nearest farmhouse and tell the farmer.”

A few moments later, we found a nearby farm but it appeared that no one was home because there seemed to be no vehicles. Now Cindy was more worried than ever about the cattle and I tried my best to reassure her, “As soon as the farmer and his family are home, they will see that their cows are out and they will get them back into their own pasture.”

Thinking that was the end of our conversation about the wandering cows, I stepped on the accelerator and prepared to continue our day adventure to Fairbault.

However…

Cindy still wasn’t convinced, “We should leave them a note.”

Incredulous, I asked her, “Are you kidding me? It is obvious the cows are out. They are wandering all over the place. The farmer will see that the minute he comes home.”

“We should still leave a note.”

I protested, “Cindy, I feel really stupid leaving the farmer a note telling him that his cows are out when it is perfectly obvious that the cows are out.”

And suddenly right then, I knew Cindy was not going to change her mind. She was so worried about the wandering cows that she felt something needed to be done. So, I drove up the long driveway and proceeded to knock on the farmer’s door just in case they were home after all. No answer. I returned to the car and somehow, we found some paper and pen.

 And so, I wrote, “Dear farmer, I am so sorry to tell you that your cows are out. I just thought you should know.” We managed to find tape in the car too and so I taped the note to their door.

We then continued to Fairibault where we enjoyed a lunch and some sweet fellowship.  On the way back, we passed the same farm and this time, the cows were safely in their own pasture.  Cindy gazed out the window looking at the peaceful scene, “I don’t why I got so worried about those cows and made you write that note.”

I smiled and shrugged, “I don’t know why either.”  And we continued our journey home.

But now, many years later I do know why. That day was to serve as a sweet memory firmly planted in my mind and heart. I often think of special memories and friendships as gifts from heaven. Again, I remembered a scripture in which Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Instead lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 My memory of that day is an everlasting reminder of the unique and special friendship that Cindy and I had shared. And our continuing friendship is a treasure waiting in heaven. So, I now know that having that special memory of Cindy is the reason why the cows were out on that one bright Sunday so long ago.

 

Reposting: A Letter, A Journey and a Gift of the Heart

 

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Two days ago, a dear 2nd cousin of mine was severely hurt in a fire. Today she is in a trauma ICU on a long road to recovery. She is a beautiful young lady with a beautiful spirit deep inside.  And she is constantly on my mind and in my heart. Her mother, my 1st cousin, is one of my best friends in life who has been a wonderful source of encouragement and inspiration to me.  Many times she has been my personal cheerleader when no one else is around; always just a phone call away. So, today, I am reposting this story with some revisions to hopefully portray the strong yet gentle beauty that both these cousins have lovingly revealed to me:

Time frame: late 1980’s. While attending college in Minnesota I embarked on a quest to find my cousin, Kathy whom I last seen at age 10. I had told my roommate about her and she encouraged me to try to find her. We last saw each other when we were 10 years old when she, her mom, and dad came to visit us in Wisconsin. When we were five, my mother took a photo of us in the kitchen. When we were 10, we visited on the front lawn on a warm summer evening and I piled kittens on her lap. I thought those kittens were so cute but I am not sure she liked having them all on top of her. While I grew up on a farm in the Midwest, Kathy lived in southern California. Kathy’s parents divorced when she was 11; she could not return to visit her Wisconsin relatives. She also couldn’t travel easily because she had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. My immediate family never traveled as far as California. We lost contact with Kathy during the years following the divorce. Although I only met my cousin just a few times in my life, I often wondered about her.

Determined to find Kathy, I met with my grandmother who had written her occasionally and she had written back. But, time again passed so my grandmother could only give me Kathy’s last known address. To make things more complicated, my cousin had married acquiring a different last name. My grandmother couldn’t remember her new last name. Not wanting to give up, I wrote Kathy a heart-felt letter using the wrong address and the wrong name mailing it with a stamp and a sincere prayer. I needed to believe that God would answer my prayer.

Weeks and even a month passed. One day, I arrived at my apartment and found a letter from California.  The return address contained an unfamiliar last name but as soon as I saw “Kathy”, I knew it was from my cousin. I could hardly believe it.  Eagerly, I opened the letter and found that Kathy had poured out her soul in that long, detailed letter. She described some incredible events in her life. She unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl.

Doctors told her that she couldn’t get pregnant. Sometime later, Kathy began experiencing extreme pain and was taken to an urgent care clinic. She was misdiagnosed as having a kidney stone or perhaps a bladder infection. The very next day and while on medication for a possible bladder infection, she returned to the clinic due to increasing pain. She was found to be in labor and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Kathy and her husband were shocked and amazed for the unexpected and miraculous birth of their daughter, Kristie Lee.

Through the years, Kristie would be an inspiring source of joy to her parents, relatives, friends, and to all who truly get to know her. She would prove herself to be intellectually brilliant, artistic, and to have an eye for beauty she discovers in nature.  She also possesses inside her soul a quiet and tender spirit which you might not see unless; you truly take time to know her.

Later Kathy told me that she and her husband tried to revisit her urgent care doctor who had treated her.  With her newborn daughter in her arms, Kathy wanted to show him her beautiful but misdiagnosed “kidney stone.” They were promptly told that the doctor was no longer at that clinic. Can you imagine the shock and surprise of everyone in that waiting room?

I wrote again and we began corresponding; by letter and by phone. We became more than cousins but friends who could talk about anything.  While Kathy told me about her married life and cute stories of her young daughter, I told her about my job working with adults with developmental disabilities, family in Wisconsin, and my personal life.  We shared about our common faith in Jesus. While Kathy had married, I had remained single which enabled me to do some limited traveling taking in time and limited budget considerations. At this point though, most of my solo journeys were short excursions to Wisconsin to visit family and friends. I had made occasional trips to Iowa too. Like I said, limited traveling.

Several years later, Kathy invited me to visit her in California and I was terrified, “I actually have to get on a plane?” Later and with lingering fear I was up for the adventure of traveling cross country. My first journey to San Diego was a direct flight taking about a three and half hours across mostly sunny skies; I watched from my window the changing view of cities, forests, and mountains.  Farms resembled quilt blocks of grassland and crop fields.

When the jet journeyed downward, the rising topaz-tinted desert appeared on one side of the plane and the deep-blue ocean on my side. Sun rays brightened the clear sky and glimmered on the ocean’s surface making the scene sparkle like a sapphire gem. This picturesque view showed me God was there and was blessing my journey. Apprehensive though, I braced for the final approach as the jet glided towards land and jolted as it touched ground.

At the airport gate, I gathered my belongings, and walked through a curving tunnel. With nervousness, I rounded the last corner stepping into the terminal. The afternoon sun glistened through the airport’s vaulted windows and in the midst of a blinding glow; I glimpsed my cousin in her wheelchair. After 17 years we had reunited. I hurried to give Kathy the warmest hug I could.

“Welcome cousin,” she said in such a warm voice that I forgot my shyness.  Kathy, a sensitive and loving person and we soon felt like sisters and even best friends. During this visit I became acquainted with Kathy’s husband and her daughter, Kristie. While I visited that first time, we managed to visit both Disneyland and SeaWorld. Surprisingly, Disneyland was a disappointment especially for Kathy. Many exhibits and attractions would advertise that they were “handicap accessible” but they really weren’t so; at least not for someone who is in a wheelchair. We did find one interesting attraction that was truly accessible; the Mark Twain Steamboat ride. Kathy was easily able to maneuver onto the boat and find a safe place to park her chair. We all enjoyed the gentle and scenic excursion along their recreation of “Mississippi River”.

Disneyland did have a few other attractions that interested young Kristie and one include “It’s a Small World after all”; a small boat ride through a series of scenes depicting children of all nationalities. Also, I still remember the Alice in Wonderland Teacup for Two Ride. This amusement ride is comparable to the Tit A Whirl which you might see at county fairs. Kristie and I climbed aboard our little teacup and waited for the rid to begin. She notice a turning wheel in the center of our teacup, “What is that for?”

“I don’t know,” I answered and then tried turning the wheel. We found out that the wheel caused the teacup to spin. So I instructed Kristie, “Oh! That makes us spin around. Let’s leave it alone.”

Four year old Kristie did not leave the wheel alone; she did the exact opposite by turning and cranking that wheel as hard as she could. By the way, Kristie is no weakling; when she cranked that wheel, she made it spin faster than any other teacup on that ride. I was convinced we were the fastest spinning teacup in all of America. I became dizzy as the world blurred around me. Finally, our unstoppable teacup came to a halt as the ride ended. I have never forgotten that ride or the adventurous spirit hidden in Kristie.

SeaWorld proved to be interesting as all wildlife exhibits and presentations there were truly accessible for Kathy; this made our visit more enjoyable for all. While there we saw two orca whales, Shamu and Baby Shamu who we learned was just a few weeks old and shared the same birthday as Kristie.  We could see Mother Shamu teaching Baby to swim and turn in the large pool. Another highlight was seeing the splashing, playful dolphins. As I held Kristie in my arms, one eager dolphin flew in the water to our side of the pool showering us in a huge spray of water and parked itself next to Kristie.  Kristie was soaked from head to toe but she delightedly reached out to pet the friendly animal. Over the years, I would also see that Kristie held a special love and fondness for animals and somehow they were attracted to her. She had rescued a number of cats and dogs who became pets. And when one passes away she deeply grieves and suffers a broken heart. At such moments, I realize that she has the softest heart of anyone I know.

Over time, I visited my cousin Kathy and her family as much as I could. We went on adventures together forging new memories and deepening our friendship. We also shared bus-related misadventures and trips to the beach on warm, sunny days. In one bus related mishap, Kathy was stuck, mid-air, on a broken bus lift and we waited hours under a steamy summer sun for her to be rescued. In another misadventure, we boarded the wrong city bus but did not realize this until the bus turned onto Eucalyptus Street heading in the wrong direction. We then got off the bus as soon as we could and endured a long walk home in the dark as no more buses were available that late in the day.

Also taxis were not an option as I was not strong enough to transfer Kathy into a car seat. During this time, accessible transportation options for my cousin were very limited. To keep ourselves calm, we kept up a steady conversation and prayed for God to keep us safe. Kathy’s courage inspired me to remain brave. Today, I don’t remember what our conversation entailed; I just remember the long walk along those California streets in the darkness like venturing through a dimly lit tunnel. Also, Kathy at this point used a manual wheelchair so I pushed her along until we were safely home. I have no doubt that Jesus was watching over us during that journey in the darkness.

Some years later, we camped on Mount Palomar where the sun-filtering forest surrounded us like a colorful, woven blanket handmade by God; it was a quiet refuge from the demanding world far below. We basked in nature’s peacefulness venturing through the woods, picnicking, and relaxing around a campfire.  We visited Mount Palomar Observatory and stayed up late looking through large telescopes, set up in a mountain meadow, to view stars, planets and nebulas. Kathy’s husband and I took turns pushing Kathy’s wheelchair through the long grass so she could gaze through as many telescopes as she wanted. It was a special evening of admiring God’s glowing creations, glittering like jewels embedded in the deep night sky.

The tranquil, emerald-colored mountain was a vivid contrast to the traffic-filled streets, and the sun-scorched climate of Kathy’s everyday life. Years later, she and her family moved to Washington State where they were amid perpetual greenery. Kathy’s daughter, Kristie, who is an artist and nature lover often shoots photos depicting nature’s inspiring beauty. She once asked me, “Do you remember how green it was on Mount Palomar? Well, it’s like that here but it’s everywhere.” The experience of Mount Palomar affected us all and remained a cherished memory in our hearts.

Over the years we’ve all persevered through life’s heartaches and disappointments praying and encouraging each other. In the same year, Kathy’s father passed away, my mother unexpectedly died; together we faced each family holiday with grieving hearts and feeling the emptiness of our parents being gone too soon.

We also encouraged each other in new aspirations. Kristie has grown up and continues to bravely forge out a new life of her own; life is not always easy but she courageously endures and keeps pressing on in sheer determination. She is an example of strength and bravery like I have never seen. In recent years, Kathy, growing in confidence and a desire to do more in her life, took on the tasks of completing her college degree and exploring professional work opportunities. She has earned one college degree and is working on another. We all have met unseen challenges and continue to endure the next chapters of our lives.

Several summers ago, I visited Kathy in her Washington home and we again indulged our adventurous spirits by hiking around woodsy Lake Padden. It was a long, winding journey with a paved trail circling the shimmering lake. The thick green forest surrounded us like a warm and familiar cloak. I instantly remembered Mount Palomar where we had camped, hiked in the mountains, and gazed at the stars. Kathy now used a motorized wheelchair and could easily propel herself up and down the sloping hills of that curving, woodsy trail. However, I worried about the battery losing its charge as we wandered along.   This had happened before with one of Kathy’s previous motorized chairs. Thankfully, that had been a lighter wheelchair; I just needed to switch the gears to manual and push her home.

But now if that battery died, I realized I wouldn’t be able to push her back home again. Not this time as the chair was much heavier. But Kathy knew her wheelchair and her battery readings better than I; she was confident and eager to continue our trek. We finished our journey and with a beaming smile, she exclaimed, “That was my first rolling hike.”

When I think of Kathy and her family, I remember the love and friendship we all share; I also am reminded of God’s words about treasures in heaven when in Matthew 6:20-21 of the Holy Bible we are told, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will also be”. I went on a quest to find a lost cousin. In return, I had found a new sister and a lifelong friend. I also treasure the friendship I share with her daughter, Kristie.  Each friendship is an unseen treasure granted from God in heaven and a precious gift instilled in my heart.

 

Writing 201 Day 5 Map, Ode, and Metaphor

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Ode to a Journey to Wyoming

One day I awoke to prepare once again

To go on journey to visit my friend.

I have traveled this same route several years ago

But the adventure of going on a trip never grows old.

 twice I have endeavored on this solo journey of

Traveling from Minnesota to the land of Wyoming.

The familiar towns and landmarks along the way

Are dear old companions who greet me and wave

While silently proclaiming, “Yes we are still here;

So glad to see you travel our way this year.”

I passed through several small towns and by farmsteads too

And oh my, Lake Heron is a splendid sea of blue.

I drove by several state parks along the way

And note, “I must visit there on another day.”

The morning was full of bright, illuminating sunshine

As I drove along the interstate crossing the first state line.

Onward I drove with my intent eyes peering into the horizon

As I joyfully anticipated revisiting my high school friend.

And lo, how we both know that we don’t visit enough

As times can be hard and cost of travel just too much.

With the consistent rain through the summer months,

The ground has remained emerald green; deep and lush.

For usually, the further I journeyed westward from home,

The atmosphere became more and more arid while I drove.

But on this trek the land remained moist and green much longer

And I chose to enjoy this and not ponder and wonder.

So forward I drove and gladly journeyed

Into the horizon; a vast green and blue sea.

Near the end of the day my traveling was done

As I paused beneath the vaulted ceiling of a glowing sun.

While it slid down settling in the distant west,

I knew it was time for a long night rest.

I opted to stay at on a hilltop of green sloped wonder

In a motel overlooking the winding Missouri River.

For the wide flowing blue stream curved this way and that

With an iron scalloped bridge uniting one land mass to the next.

Next morning arrived and soon I was on the road

Anticipating new places to see and sights to behold.

“I can’t help it,” I chided myself with a frown,

“I must visit once again that old ghost town.”

Soon I found the right off-ramp and pulled in

And found myself wandering the old streets again.

I strolled past the old schoolhouse and the church too

Wondering what life was like back in say…1882.

I drove on nearing the Wyoming border

And noticed the rugged mountains coming closer.

After another long day’s drive,

To my friend’s house, I finally arrived.

I was there for a week, treasuring each day;

And we embarked on a few adventures along the way.

Such a sweet time to spend with a dear friend,

That my heart ached with sadness at the week’s end.

Turning around I started the long journey home

Thankful for friendship which nourished my soul.

So now, ode to a Journey I took to Wyoming,

I have a new treasure of memories inside of me.

Writing 101 Day 3: Hunting for a Hidden Treasure

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One day, I and a friend went on a

Wild journey; a new adventure.

We hoped to find a geocache

Container, a well hidden treasure.

The dirt road we traveled on was

So rugged and so very rough

That like sizzling popcorn, we

Were jostled and tossed.

For we had traversed far into the

Thick woods; a deep mountain forest

Where the tall, green needled

Pines sturdily towered over us.

And along the windy and increasingly

Treacherous dirt road,

My friend and I continued on as

We determinedly drove.

With each bump and turn, I tumbled

And jumbled in my truck seat;

Never, ever had I journeyed on

A rougher, obstacle-strewn street.

Gravel, rocks, boulders, and

Gouges in the road galore all

Took their toll making my body sore.

I bounced so high that on the

Ceiling, I hit my head.

Now, how I wish I

Could just go back to bed.

Thankfully, our tree branch and

Bush battered vehicle did not break

But oh wow, what a way to

Get a throbbing headache.

And as we still jarringly tumbled along,

I felt compelled to finally ask,

“Are we really doing all

This just for a geocache?”

The dirt road before us continued

To sharply narrow and bend

As we wondered if we’d

Really find the end.

But we did come to a halt

And to quietly rest

Upon a grassy hillside;

A gentle crest.

Then by foot we continued

To journey along the way

Hoping that our gps will

Not lead us astray.

So we then arrived deeper

In the mountain forest green

And found ourselves surrounded

By an unusual rock formation.

The boulders loomed above us

And with perfect swirls etched in deep

While encircled by the forest trees.

It seemed as if God had reached

Down to carve a perfect design

In this cluster of white rocks mostly

Hidden from man and time.

It was a hidden place of beauty

Which most people will never see

Unless they are as adventurous

As my dear friend and me.

And wouldn’t you know as we hunted

And searched among the rocks and boulders,

We completed our adventurous task: we

Found the geocache, the hidden container.

But honestly as I and my dear friend have

Embarked on many of these geocaching adventures,

We’ve learned to cherish the forest, the wildlife, and

All of nature for that is the true hidden treasure.

Thinking about my Dad on his Birthday

 

Me and My Dad

Today, June 4th, is my dad’s birthday; he was born in 1942 and passed away when he was just 58 years old.  It is hard to believe that he has been gone from our lives now for 15 years. My dad had this quiet personality but with a very hearty laugh. When something struck his funny bone, he would roar in joyous laughter that echoed through the house. He worked for many years in an iron mine and later for another 10 years in a tire factory. Additionally, he farmed and sometimes was self-employed as an electrician. He did everything he could think of to pay the bills and make ends meet. I am convinced that his very best friend in life was his older brother John who was born in 1941 and also passed on in 2010. Even though they lived far apart in their adult years, they shared a special closeness.

My dad also possessed a sense of adventure and wonderment. In 1969 when man first stepped on the moon, my dad watched enthralled. He held me on his lap and pointed to the TV, “See, Becky, they’re walking on the moon.” When I was still very little, he liked to swim and let me ride on his stomach while he laid on his back floating. Years later, he showed his sense of adventure by taking us on a family trip out west. We traveled as far as Utah and visited family there. Other highlights of that trip included seeing Mt. Rushmore and camping at Yellowstone National Park. We spent many summer weekends camping in Hatfield.

As a father, he was stern when he thought he needed to be but also very loving when someone most needed it. At least that was how he was to me. And his gift of joyous laughter with twinkling eyes will always stay with me. He could regale in humorous animation a lively story of his childhood. His Christmas Skis story comes to mind. He also loved watching a comedy or a movie that could really bring out that laughter. But other times he would watch a movie and give it more serious thought. We once had a conversation about the old Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Through the course of the movie, the main character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is very unhappy and in a dire predicament although through no fault of his doing. The situation seems hopeless to George and he doesn’t want to continue in his life. Near the end of the movie, George is happily running down the street. His dire situation had not yet changed. My dad puzzled over this saying, “His situation had not changed and yet suddenly he was happy.”

“No,” I slowly commented in my own quiet way, “His situation hadn’t changed; just his perspective.”

“Yeah,” my dad’s face lit up now satisfied, “His perspective changed and THAT was the point of the movie.”

My dad’s laughter and his quiet moments of wonder and thoughtfulness are gifts that I will always treasure in my heart.

 

Friday Verse Journal Matthew 6:21

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Although this is one day late, I am determined to write something in my Friday Verse Journal segment. The other day I happened to stop for a quick lunch before returning to work. I sat in my car in the parking debating if I should splurge on a small lunch. I had just decided that I shouldn’t do so when I looked around the parking lot and saw a familiar car. A friend I hadn’t seen in a long time was there. Immediately, I changed my mind and ventured into the restaurant. I ordered a meal and soon found my friend at a small table. We had a wonderful time of chatting, sharing, and encouraging each other. Her friendship and kindness are very special gifts to me and I treasure them very much. I think such special friends are just a few of God’s wonderful gifts which he showers on me. The loving Lord has a way of suddenly surprising me during the day when I sometimes least expect it and that was the case when I unexpectedly met up with my friend. God knew I needed someone to talk to and provided. He truly does supply all my needs and blesses me with wonderful gifts and blessings. I hope that has showered you with a special gift today, something that you will treasure in your heart.

Matthew 6:21 (Holy Bible New International Version):

“For where your treasure is, there  your heart will be also.”

A Letter, a Journey, and a Gift of the Heart

 

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Time frame: late 1980’s. While attending college in Minnesota I embarked on a quest to find my cousin, Kathy whom I last seen at age 10. I had told my roommate about her and she encouraged me to try to find her. We last saw each other when we were 10 years old. When we were five, my mother took a photo of us in the kitchen. When we were 10, we visited on the front lawn on a warm summer evening and I piled kittens on her lap. I thought those kittens were so cute but I am not sure she liked having them all on top of her. While I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, Kathy lived in southern California. Kathy’s parents divorced when she was 11; she could not return to visit her Wisconsin relatives. She also couldn’t travel easily because she had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. My immediate family never traveled as far as California. We lost contact with Kathy during the years following the divorce. Although I only met my cousin just a few times in my life, I often wondered about her.

Determined to find Kathy, I met with my grandmother who had written her occasionally and she had written her. But, time again passed so my grandmother could only give me Kathy’s last known address. To make things more complicated, my cousin had married acquiring a different last name. My grandmother couldn’t remember her new last name. Not wanting to give up, I wrote Kathy a heart-felt letter using the wrong address and the wrong name mailing it with a stamp and a sincere prayer. I needed to believe that God would answer my prayer.

Weeks and even a month passed. One day, I arrived at my apartment and found a letter from California.  The return address contained an unfamiliar last name but as soon as I saw “Kathy”, I knew it was from my cousin. I could hardly believe it.  Eagerly, I opened the letter and found that Kathy had poured out her soul in that long, detailed letter. She described some incredible events in her life. She unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl.

A number of doctors told her that she couldn’t get pregnant. Sometime later, Kathy began experiencing extreme pain and was taken to an urgent care clinic. She was misdiagnosed as having a kidney stone or a bladder infection. The very next day and while on medication for a bladder infection, she returned to the clinic due to increasing pain. She was in labor and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Kathy and her husband were shocked, amazed, and overjoyed giving thanks to God for the unexpected and miraculous birth of their daughter, Kristie.

Later Kathy told me that she and her husband tried to revisit her urgent care doctor who had misdiagnosed her.  With her newborn daughter in her arms, Kathy wanted to show him her beautiful “kidney stone.” They were promptly told that the doctor was no longer at that clinic. Can you imagine the shock and surprise of everyone in that waiting room?

I wrote again and we began corresponding; by letter and by phone. We became more than cousins but friends who could talk about anything.  While Kathy told me about her married life and cute stories of her young daughter, I told her about my job working with adults with developmental disabilities, family in Wisconsin, and my personal life.  We shared about our common faith in Jesus. While Kathy had married, I had remained single which enabled me to do some limited traveling taking in time and limited budget considerations. At this point though, most of my solo journeys were short excursions to Wisconsin to visit family and friends. I had made occasional trips to Iowa too. Like I said, limited traveling.

Several years later, Kathy invited me to visit her in California and I was terrified, “I actually have to get on a plane?” Later and with lingering fear I was up for the adventure of traveling cross country. My first journey to San Diego was a direct flight taking about a three and half hours across mostly sunny skies; I watched from my window the changing view of cities, forests, and mountains.  Farms resembled quilt blocks of grassland and crop fields.

When the jet journeyed downward, the rising topaz-tinted desert appeared on one side of the plane and the deep-blue ocean on my side. Sun rays brightened the clear sky and glimmered on the ocean’s surface making the scene sparkle like a sapphire gem. This picturesque view showed me God was there and was blessing my journey. Apprehensive though, I braced for the final approach as the jet glided towards land and jolted as it touched ground.

At the airport gate, I gathered my belongings, and walked through a curving tunnel. With nervousness, I rounded the last corner stepping into the terminal. The afternoon sun glistened through the airport’s vaulted windows and in the midst of a blinding glow; I glimpsed my cousin in her wheelchair. After 17 years we had reunited. I hurried to give Kathy the warmest hug I could.

“Welcome cousin,” she said in such a warm voice that I forgot my shyness.  Kathy, a sensitive and loving person and we soon felt like sisters and even best friends. During this visit I became acquainted with Kathy’s husband and daughter. While I visited that first time, we managed to visit both Disneyland and SeaWorld. Surprisingly, Disneyland was a disappointment especially for Kathy. Many exhibits and attractions would advertise that they were “handicap accessible” but they really weren’t so; at least not for someone who is in a wheelchair. We did find one interesting attraction that was truly accessible; the Mark Twain Steamboat ride. Kathy was easily able to maneuver onto the boat and find a safe place to park her chair. We all enjoyed the gentle and scenic excursion along their makeshift “Mississippi River”.

SeaWorld proved to be more interesting as all wildlife exhibits and presentations there were truly accessible for Kathy; this made our visit much more enjoyable for all. While there we saw two orca whales, Shamu and Baby Shamu who we learned was just a few weeks old.  We could see Mother Shamu teaching Baby to swim and turn in the large pool. Another highlight was seeing the splashing, playful dolphins. As I held onto my four year old cousin, Kristie, one eager dolphin flew in to water to our side showering us in a huge spray of water. My little cousin was soaked from head to toe but she delightedly reached out to pet the friendly animal.

This one visit turned into many. We went on adventures together forging new memories and deepening our relationship. We also shared bus-related misadventures and trips to the beach on warm, sunny days. In one bus related mishap, Kathy was stuck, mid-air, on a broken bus lift and we waited hours under a steamy summer sun for her to be rescued. In another misadventure, we boarded the wrong city bus but did not realize this until the bus turned onto Eucalyptus Street heading in the wrong direction. We then got off the bus as soon as we could and endured a long walk home in the dark as no more buses were available that late in the day.

Also taxis were not an option as I was not strong enough to transfer Kathy into a car seat. During this time, accessible transportation options for my cousin were very limited. To keep ourselves calm, we kept up a steady conversation and prayed for God to keep us safe. Today, I don’t remember what our conversation entailed; I just remember the long walk along those California streets in the darkness like venturing through a dimly lit and unfamiliar tunnel. Also, Kathy at this point used a manual wheelchair so I pushed her along until we were safely home. I have no doubt that Jesus was watching over us during that journey in the darkness.

Some years later, we camped on Mount Palomar where the sun-filtering forest surrounded us like a colorful, woven blanket handmade by God; it was a quiet refuge from the demanding world far below us. We basked in nature’s peacefulness venturing through the woods, picnicking, and relaxing around a campfire.  We visited Mount Palomar Observatory and stayed up late looking through large telescopes, set up in a mountain meadow, to view stars, planets and nebulas. Kathy’s husband and I took turns pushing Kathy’s wheelchair through the long grass so she could gaze through as many telescopes as she wanted. It was a special evening of admiring God’s glowing creations, glittering like jewels embedded in the deep night sky.

The tranquil, emerald-colored mountain was a vivid contrast to the traffic-filled streets, and the sun-scorched climate of Kathy’s everyday life. Years later, she and her family moved to Washington State where they’re amid perpetual greenery. Kathy’s daughter, Kristie, who is an artist and nature lover often shoots photos depicting nature’s inspiring beauty. She once asked me, “Do you remember how green it was on Mount Palomar? Well, it’s like that here but it’s everywhere.” The experience of Mount Palomar affected us all and remained a cherished memory in our hearts.

Over the years we’ve persevered through life’s heartaches and disappointments praying and encouraging each other. In the same year, Kathy’s father passed away, my mother unexpectedly died; together we faced each family holiday with grieving hearts and feeling the emptiness of our parents being gone too soon.

We also encouraged each other in new aspirations. In recent years, Kathy, growing in confidence and a desire to do more in her life, took on the tasks of completing her college degree and exploring professional work opportunities. We both embraced academic challenges and will often challenge each other in trivia and word games.

Several summers ago, I visited Kathy in her Washington home and we again indulged our adventurous spirits by hiking around woodsy Lake Padden. It was a long, winding journey with a paved trail circling the shimmering lake. The thick green forest surrounded us like a warm and familiar cloak. I instantly remembered Mount Palomar. Kathy now used a motorized wheelchair and could easily propel herself up and down the sloping hills of that curving trail. However, I worried about the battery losing its charge as we wandered along.   This had happened before with one of Kathy’s previous motorized chairs. Thankfully, that had been a lighter wheelchair; I just needed to switch the gears to manual and push her home.

But now if that battery died, I realized I wouldn’t be able to push her back home again. Not this time as the chair was much heavier. But Kathy knew her wheelchair and her battery readings better than I; she was confident and eager to continue our trek. We finished our journey and with a beaming smile, she exclaimed, “That was my first rolling hike.”

When I think of Kathy and the friendship we share, I am reminded of God’s words about treasures in heaven when in Matthew 6:20-21 of the Holy Bible we are told, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will also be”. I went on a quest to find a lost cousin. In return, I had found a new sister and a lifelong friend. Kathy’s friendship is an unseen treasure granted from heaven and a precious gift instilled in my heart.