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The beginning of the End and New Beginnings

“When this madness ends, we must celebrate by visiting someplace amazing like Italy.” Dreams of visiting Italy would get sprinkled into our conversations and during the hardest, darkest times the hope of walking about the streets of some new place helped me stay the course and finish treatment. Leila (of the Awesome Threesome) and I would pull up our frequent flier points and occasionally look online to see if there were any specials. I remember sitting bald and sitting in discouragement and sitting in pain and discomfort and Leila would cheer me up with visions of faraway places. We talked of visiting Charmaine in Florence and travelling by train to Toulouse to visit Donna or Paris where Jen was now living. We discovered there was a marathon in Rome.

But then life took over and the weeks and months blurred and the everyday swallowed up the opportunities to visit the amazing some places.

We knew we would be in Orlando the first weekend of March for the annual Synergy conference (incredible conference–a definite future blog). We were inviting our friends from all over to join us. We ended up with six of us making up what I affectionately termed “the California Cohort.” Cohort. I love that word! So, Lisa, Loi, Sonia, and Joanna agreed to join Leila and me for a heart expanding, world-changing, eyeball lifting outside ourselves and onto God kind of weekend. And somehow our conversation turned to visiting Italy in the Epcot center. Afterall, “something was better than nothing.” We booked our flights so that we would arrive a day before the conference started. We would take in Italy AND France, and the Middle East, and oh, pretty much the whole world through Epcot.

The week before we left I was online and the tickets for the Epcot center were running $82. I couldn’t see paying that much money, so I started talking the whole experience down. “It’s okay. It’s too expensive. We don’t have to go. We can just hang out by the pool at the hotel or go to the mall and just relax before the conference begins.” I was trying to let my disappointment dispel by looking forward to the other good things that would be happening that weekend. Once again, pushing down my hopes, desires, wants, dreams.

But then Joanna (fellow Triathlon 2006 team member…blogged about the Triathlon we participated in on CaringBridge) connected with a friend in California who had a daughter that worked at Disney in Florida. Around 2 am the night we arrived we received a text from the daughter with news that since her boyfriend also worked at Disney they could get all SIX of us in for FREE with PARK HOPPER tickets!!!

YEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!

And so we giggled and floated our way through the Epcot center. No rushing about trying to squeeze everything in. We took our time. Lingered whenever we wanted. We hit Italy right at lunch time. Handsome Italian waiters with fun to pronounce names delivered $20 salads that we didn’t have any hesitation ordering.

After lunch, we headed over to Japan to use the restroom.

And as we came out we heard them.

Our pace quickened. My heart started pounding. Tears starting forming.

We came to source of the amazing sound and saw this:

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Three women Taiko drummers.

Most of you know what the Taiko drums signify. My marathon running friend, Kierstin, told me that Taiko drummers play at the finish line of the LA Marathon with the sound heard a mile away–long before they are in sight. Upon hearing that, Taiko drums came to represent the end of the marathon of cancer treatment. The woman drummers were symbolic of the journey I have been on trying to figure out and embrace being created in the image of God as a woman, as an Asian American woman, as a warrior, as a leader, as a Christian. Those Japanese Taiko drummers displayed both feminine beauty along with a “don’t hold back, play with all your heart” kind of strength.

And now, here at just the right time, at just the right place, with just the right people, the Taiko drums played.

They played for me.

And we all stood there and wept.

God was speaking to my heart that the end of the wilderness time had come. The Israelites wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years. God provided manna for them to eat, their shoes did not wear out. It was a unique time but not the final destination. God did not intend that the Israelites live as nomad wanderers. He was clear from the beginning that Abraham would have the land. Moses was to lead God’s people to the promised land. Joshua and Caleb reported back about the land God promised and it was all that God said and more. The wandering time was a detour time. God redeemed that time. But the wandering was only for a time. The story did not end with walking in circles. And so, with my little life, I was reminded that the cancer, post cancer wandering time was not the ultimate destination.

And so right there in the Epcot center in Florida, in Japan, down the way from Italy, God sweetly, symbolically, in my heart language, showed me that it was time to take up arms and re-engage in battle.

Game on.

I have sought to be open to opportunities that have come up now that a new chapter is opening.

In one of my bags is the readmittance form to Talbot Seminary. There is an Orange County extension class about three miles from my house  that will meet once a week on Thursday evenings this fall and it seems to be part of the next steps. This cancer book idea keeps coming back around and around. Each time I dismiss it, another reminder comes up for why I need to follow through on at least trying. I have a soft deadline to have the book ready to be looked at by an editor and for next steps by August 15th. My life is not my own. So, once again, I yield and surrender. Be glorified in my life, O God.

Here is the California Cohort in front of the cool looking silver ball in the Epcot Center.

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I somehow picture that when it is time for me to go home, Jesus will greet me at the finish line of my life playing Taiko drums. And I picture learning to play from Him and welcoming each of you into heaven playing the Taiko drums with reckless abandon.