“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Usually, when you hear these words, it’s December and the radio stations are filled with music that reminds us that the holiday season is in full swing. However, for me the most wonderful time of the year is the first full week of August. This is when I take part in Cycling Around North Dakota in Sakakawea Country (CANDISC). For seven days, bicyclists from all over the United States and Canada gather to experience God’s country at its finest. And I’m one of them.
I’ve been riding long distance for more than six years now. While I pedal down the highways and byways of Western North Dakota, I witness the beautiful handiwork of our Creator. My ‘maiden bike voyage’ of the year usually begins when the snow is off the roads. I get my music play list ready and hit the open road to begin conditioning for the 375 to 400 miles CANDISC ride. Sometimes I zone out while listening to a wide genre of artists. Other times, I soak in the beauty of nature and enjoy the sounds of the earth, the colors of the sky, the trees and the fields.
This is a perfect time to have nice long visits with the Lord. I thank God for my safety, for the weather, for my ability. Other times I’ll question God: “Why is this hill so steep?” or “Why is the wind blowing so hard against me?”
The CANDISC ride always falls on the anniversary of the death of my best friend, Diane. Breast cancer took her life on Aug. 8, 2007. I’m usually in a melancholy mood during my ride on that day. One Aug. 8, I was pedaling up a particular hill around the Missouri River. It was a dreary, cloudy, rainy day and the hill loomed in the distance. From my vantage point, it looked ginormous—as if once I reached the top, I would meet Jesus himself.
While pedaling up that hill my legs felt strong, but my lungs gulped for air. With each rotation of the pedal, I imagined what it was like during Diane’s final days—her struggle to simply breathe. Once I got to the top of that hill, I felt arms embracing me. I knew that Diane was there whispering, “Love you dearly my friend.”
Every Aug. 8, I feel as if I’m riding my bike alongside God and my friend, Diane. And that’s why, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
What have you done to push your limits? How did it make you feel?
Lisa Plorin is a first-term Women of the ELCA executive board member from Upham, N.D.