After my cancer diagnosis years ago I had a small window of time between my last surgery and the first of four chemotherapy treatments. My ‘chemo cocktail’, Adriamycin and Cytoxan (known affectionately to us cancer insiders as A/C), would cost me my hair, my energy, and very possibly the child I was carrying. At the time, some precious friends of ours owned a cabin nestled deep in the mountains of north Georgia. They generously offered to let me have a mini-retreat there, providing a much-needed opportunity to clear my head and focus on what we were about to undertake. I tend to be rather introspective and, unlike my husband who would have chosen this time to be immersed in family and friends 24/7, I really wanted and needed some time alone.
Richard was concerned about me going so far away by myself, especially where cell phone coverage would be minimal, so we invited my ‘chocolate chip cookie’ friend, Alison, to join me.
A little back-story: The day I received my diagnosis (over the phone) was one of the longest, most bizarre days of my life. Time stood still in a way but also seemed to suddenly spin wildly out of control. A friend of mine recently described it as “frozen, but moving.” I became a cancer survivor, patient, victim, and fighter in a matter of seconds. By evening we were all completely exhausted. I had just finished giving Rachel her bath – she was 2 ½ at the time – and had walked into the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies for Richard and our older son Alex. They had seen a commercial on TV while I was bathing Rachel and a nice plate of comfort food with a glass of cold milk sounded pretty good to all of us.
As our little Rachel was helping me find the cookie dough in the refrigerator, we heard a knock at the front door. Honestly, I wondered who on earth would be coming over at this late hour and headed through the family room to see who had come for a visit. When I opened the door, the unmistakable delicious aroma of chocolate hit my nose. There stood my friend, Alison, with a basket of homemade fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. Flashing that celebrity smile of hers, she stepped inside and said, “I didn’t know what to do except pray and bring chocolate!” We laughed. We hugged. We cried. We ate every one of those cookies.
Now back to my mini-retreat: Alison and I agreed that this was not going to be a trip for shopping and gallivanting. We have similar personalities and she was one of the few people in my life who truly understood my need for solitude. Heading out early one Wednesday morning we enjoyed some specifically chosen CDs on our beautiful drive into the trees. We found the cabin after only one wrong turn and it took just a few minutes for us to unpack and become acquainted with our surroundings. The cabin was gorgeous – beautifully decorated and perfectly inviting. Smiling photographs of family and friends were everywhere and I instantly felt a sense of peace and calm about my time there. The sun was warm and high in the sky so Alison and I ventured out for a walk.
We walked quietly together, winding our way through the trees and embracing the chill in the air. As much as I was enjoying the simple therapy of being surrounded by all things natural, Alison could sense that I was running out of steam. “Hey, why don’t we head back? I’m about ready for a bite to eat. How about you?” I agreed and we soon found ourselves back inside, deciding on popcorn and an apple for our snack. We were thrilled to find an enormous deck on the back side of the cabin complete with oversized rocking chairs and a breathtaking view of those rolling north Georgia mountains.
I grabbed a blanket to wrap around my legs and was rocking gently, watching the sun change the sky as it began to settle. Alison broke the silence by asking, “Have you ever played Scrabble with God?” My raised eyebrows answered for me. She explained that this was a game she had been playing for years by simply laying out a Scrabble board, choosing random tiles, building random words, and when no more tiles could be used, looking at the board as a whole and reflecting on what was there. I decided to give it a go. At first we joked and laughed a bit about some of the funny, crazy combinations we could design and how the words played off each other. But the more I pulled those random tiles from the table, the more focused I became. This game was drawing me in. It was truly as if God was allowing me to see words in my tiles before they were even a conscious thought.
When the board was full and I couldn’t build anything more with the remaining tiles, Alison and I began to read the words aloud. I don’t remember all of them, but I do specifically recall words like faith, joy, courage, family, spirit, and hope. I’m sure my frame of mind made me more attune to such words but still, the tiles didn’t lie. I hadn’t exchanged any, hadn’t turned in my slate for a do-over, or manipulated any of the letters. It was a simple yet profound way of God reminding me that He was very aware…and He was there. Alison and I sat quietly and watched a beautiful sunset paint its way into darkness before going inside. The rest of our time together was exactly what my doctor – the Master Healer – had ordered: I read, I wrote, I prayed, I laughed, I slept, I cried a little.
We arrive back home a few days later and I felt refreshed, focused, even energized.
Scrabble with God. Just one more beautiful way in which He reminds us that we are never far from His heart. Or His hand.