I’ve always loved to drive. Well, let me clarify – I’ve always loved road trips. OK, let me further clarify – I’ve always loved road trips when I’m behind the wheel. Road trips to see my grandparents or cousins were never like the road trips I now take. My dad believed in three cardinal road rules:
1) The only time to stop for a potty break was when HE needed to take one.
2) The only place to stop for a potty break was a Stuckey’s (or “Stuckey’s on the highway” as my mom used to call the combination gas station/trinket store/snack shops that dotted the roadways for decades)
3) The only items to be purchased while taking that potty break at Stuckey’s were pecan logs and plastic sandwiches. Pecan logs were a sticky, sugary confection rolled in nuts, and plastic sandwiches were my personal name for those pre-made, pre-sliced, tasteless things sealed up tight in a little triangle container. I always got ham & American; dad was a pimento cheese guy. All plastic sandwiches were made with white bread.
Road trips now allow me the opportunity to experience new places and new foods and new people. They are my personal role-playing adventure game. I am Dora the Explorer. For me, the journey is as much fun as the destination.
This road trip has been no different – it has been an adventure.
There was the late night EZ Mart stop in New Boston, Texas, where my friend, Courtney, and I felt extremely underdressed (or perhaps it should be overdressed) when encountering a most confident woman wearing what appeared to be a yellow sweater and white stiletto patent leather boots. I’m still wondering if the sweater was meant to be a dress, or if she simply got busy and forgot to throw on a matching skirt. My husband said a lot of people in that area work for a chicken processing plant, so I’d like to think she was a poultry cheerleader.
Hampton Inn in Bryan, Arkansas offered up its own tale of mystery and intrigue, as we smuggled my dog, Millie, passed the “no pets allowed” sign. Sometimes we hide her in a pillowcase or tuck her away in a coat to sneak her into dangerous territory; this time we actually remembered her “bedroom,” which isn’t either a bed or a room but rather a soft-side pet carrier that looks more like a duffel bag. Walking past the front desk with her peering out of the mesh, I imagined my phone ringing and a low voice on the other end saying, “Well done, agent.” I forgot to mention that Millie isn’t one of those little “purse-friendly” things – she’s a Cocker Spaniel. And she’s the most snuggly 20-pound pillow anyone can sneak into a hotel.
We’ve enjoyed sweet tea and deep South cooking, which everyone should experience at least once – creamed corn, turnip greens, black eyed peas, sweet potato casserole, fried okra, hot buttery cornbread – and we’ve passed towns named Bucksnort and Friendship and Fernvale.
As I look at the sentence, “this road trip has been no different,” I realize it’s incomplete. This time, the most amazing adventures haven’t been in the doing – they’ve been in the “being.” Yesterday, neither Courtney nor I spoke for 6 hours as we journeyed in the rain. We wanted to savor life without talking. It was precious and rich. There were moments of laughter and tears, moments of pure awe.
A beam of light streaming from the back of an 18-wheeler. The shaft of light illuminating the ground it passes is visible only because of a torrential downpour. The sheets of rain that make the road so treacherous provide the perfect palette on which that light is so strongly painted. The light would be diffused if not for the storm.
Perfectly timed sunlight. There is a sweet syncronicity in nature when it dances with the divine. The trees, the grass, flocks of birds, the skies all move to a symphony we are too busy to hear. The sun winked through the clouds in time to a musical refrain, just to remind me.
The mist-covered fields in Arkansas. I’m reminded of the lyrics to a song, “I can feel You all around me, thickening the air I’m breathing…” Oh, to feel the presence of God in the same way I feel the salty air of the ocean or dewy fog or the heaviness of clouds ready to blanket the earth with snow.
The silhouette of quiet trees. The trees are yielding up their leaves – doing so without a fight, without a fuss. There is beauty in the loss, and greater beauty in the branches that reach to the Heavens. The stark silhouette may appear dead, but life is churning within. Refreshment and renewal is taking place. Healing is happening. Those trees will again give life, again bear fruit. But there is beauty in the season of stillness. May I remember that always.
The beauty of gray. So often, people associate shades of gray with gloom. The color is accused of washing out and washing away brilliance. But a beautiful thing happens when gray enters into a world. Some colors become more saturated, richer. Greens become greener – they actually glow. It’s as if the Lord says, “there’s life you’ll only experience in the gray – take it.” There’s beauty beyond the boundaries.
Stories, shared by God Himself, adventures He wanted us to experience that we would have completely missed had we been caught up in conversation. Every story He shared has life – every story holds more stories.
Oh, that I might be silent more often, to hear words without speaking.