timing is everything

So I will grant you that driving until almost 3 am was probably not the brightest thing I could possibly have done, but being in Geneva - an appropriate first stop - put me on a path that led me through the right places at the right times on Day 2. If i'd stopped driving four hours earlier on Day 1, I would have hit Vermont and New Hampshire in the dark, and missed everything.

I took the highway most of the way to New England, but about 2/3 of the way through New York, I got off the toll road and onto the back roads, and it was the best decision I ever made. And this, too, is life. Sometimes getting out of the fast lane and taking a more leisurely pace through life is exactly the best thing.

No, I didn't take a GPS. But I did take an outdated atlas. :) So I figured out - as I went - which roads to look for and how to get across each state - and the road I took out of New York and into Vermont led me straight through the Green Mountain National Forest.

It was as beautiful as I'd always heard it would be.

There's a spot on the side of the road where, on a clear day, you can see for 100 miles. It wasn't a clear day, but since (true to form) someone had built a store across the street, I stopped. I got maple syrup and maple sugar candy (and one piece did actually make it all the way home!) and a couple of post-cards that I will probably never actually get around to mailing. And I just stood there - in the rain - and looked.

And as I drove through the mountains, and simply soaked in the beauty of God's creativity displayed in the trees and rocks and skies around me, I felt myself slowly becoming myself again. Recklessly and ontologically me. At least for a couple of hours. I caught myself smiling for no reason at all. Came close to almost thinking nothing at all.

It was heavenly, resting while driving. And this is why I do it. I do love to travel, tho 12-14 hours a day in my car does feel like overdoing it a bit. But the peace that comes in those moments when it's just me and God and we're not working on anything or talking thru any issues, but just resting in the fact that He loves me and I love Him, and I'm in awe again of the God who paints with this kind of passion and creativity - it's totally worth it.

looking for... something

Landing in Geneva, New York - and remembering that sense of "you'll know it when you see it" that preceded landing there - reminds me in retrospect that this, too, is entirely like Him. We hear the words "I know the plans I have for you" quoted out of context and ad nauseum until it becomes a platitude - but the truth is, God did know the plans He had for Israel, and He still does. And likewise, the God who knows how much hair came out in my hairbrush today does indeed know where I'm going and how I'll get there. But to quote Andy Stanley, "direction determines destination," and we don't always need to know where we're going in order to get there. It's enough that He does. We just need to do what we can with what we've got and do our level best to head in the right direction. We will mess this up. It's okay. God knows all about that too, and has what to us will seem like a contingency plan, but really, was probably the plan all along because of all the valuable things we will learn along the way.

I have absolutely no clue what the "destination" of my life is right now - a.k.a. what I'm "destined" to do. There are hints, clues, ideas, guesses - vague thoughts and whispers of dreams - but no real place to head for at the moment. Nothing that I'm certain of. Except maybe going to Africa - but that's not for tomorrow, and I don't know what I'd do there yet.

And yes, I think destiny is partially of our own making, but I believe that's because God gives us the gifts and talents and calling and plans "coincidental" events and meetings between people and allows us to contribute to the making of our lives. Lately I've seen a lot of my gifts and talents begin to lay fallow, and the restlessness I've been feeling for months now has gotten tangled up with frustration and a little bit of depression that comes from not having any real vision to pursue, and my internal search for "what's next" has become a little more frantic. I've felt stifled. Lost. Incredibly sad. Disoriented. Not sure I'm headed in the right direction at all.

But just as following the signs I saw for a hotel did eventually lead me to one, through perseverance, a little faith, the kindness of a stranger who gave me directions when I stopped to ask for them, and the choice to be okay with the fact that I couldn't really see all that well in the dark as I journeyed toward - I didn't know what - so too in life. All I can do right now is go with what I know. The last signs I saw pointed me in this direction. I'm choosing to trust and be okay with the darkness - because I know there's Light here, too. And that stopping to ask for directions is okay. (I am doing that.) And wherever it is I'm going - I will get there eventually. It's disconcerting, yes - looking for something and not being sure what it is that I'm looking for. But I will know it when I see it. Because just like landing in Geneva - it will have His touch written all over it.

"you'll know it when you see it"

The first day of a road trip with Jesus tends to be a long drive day. I'm eager to get wherever I'm going - only sort of but not quite thinking about the fact that the journey is the destination. I know this in my head, but I'm still going somewhere, and I want to find out where. So I press on. Sometimes pretty late at night.

So I'm driving along on the highway, and I'm watching exit signs, and I notice something that amuses me... they've re-numbered their exits, but just to make sure you still know where you're going, there's a little sign under the bigger exit sign that says "Old Exit ---" with whatever number it used to be. How thoughtful! :)

I think I want to get off at Exit 47 - I'm pretty sure that's number I heard when I asked Him - so I'm watching the signs, and I go past Exit 45 - and I keep driving, thinking we're almost there - and then I see: Exit 61.

Did I miss something here?

But then I keep driving, and I realize after a while that the exit numbers are going down - 60, 59, 58, ... - I must be in another state. How did that happen? Okay, well, the numbers are going down, anyway, so we'll get to Exit 47 eventually, right?

So I keep driving. And driving. And driving. And it's past midnight and I'm tired. I see a sign for a motel that's only $30/night. I think about getting off the highway and seeing if they have any rooms. But didn't God say Exit 47? I'm not sure. And it's late. And I'm tired. But I really want to know for sure... I just feel this need to find out.

So I keep driving. And when we get to Exit 47 - there is pretty much nothing there.

Okay. So I heard wrong. This happens, especially when it involves numbers, lol. I'm okay with this, but it is now 2 am, and I am way past ready to sleep. So I start looking for signs. And at one of the next exits there is a sign that lists a couple of hotels and motels, and one of them is a name I know and trust, and I think - okay, I'll get off here. Go with what you know, right? So I did.

And found myself in the middle of nowhere.

Now one thing that is pretty great about driving through the middle of nowhere is you get a pretty good sense of the vastness of the universe and how very small you are. You also become pretty aware of how incredibly dark it is when there isn't any light. On a clear night, the stars are beautiful. But this is so not a clear night. It's raining. And I am in the middle of nowhere. And those hotels are nowhere to be found. Except the sign said to go this way....

So I keep driving, and praying, and wondering if I'm totally nuts, and I decide I will give this five more minutes. I am not sure that I've gotten this right, but I am sure that He has someplace for me to stay tonight. But how will I know?

"You'll know it when you see it."

And then, all of a sudden, I am in civilization. I am, in fact, in Geneva, New York.

I started to laugh. I couldn't help it.

"Geneva" is the name of a camp that I used to go to for 4-5 hour personal retreats every now and again. The first time I went, a friend of mine had booked me a day there because, he said, I needed to get away and do business with the Lord, and he was right - I did - and tho I didn't know it at the time, that day was the first step on a trajectory toward a deeper relationship with the Lord. My "Geneva days" (as I have continued to call them, in spite of the fact that I no longer go to that camp to take them) have become sacred, holy days of rest and communion with God. So of course I was in Geneva, New York for the first night of my trip. Of course.

It was so like Him.

a new hallelujah

i've watched this video 4 times today, and it's just too amazingly worshipful and hilarious (yes, both of those adjectives)! had to share. :)

these kids are incredibly talented. :)

....and funny!

open gates

i seriously considered not sharing this story, but since one of my goals for the year is greater transparency, here we are. happy-ness: in all of its silly, blonde-moment glory.

i will defend myself by saying that i did not know that the I-Pass and E-Z-Pass are the same thing. it seems to me that it all ought to have the same name if it's all the same thing. (and, by the way, the "fast lane" in Massachusetts is also the same thing, tho i learned that later.)

so i pull up to the first tollbooth in Ohio and i get in the "ticket" lane, and when i pull up to the toll booth, the gate goes up. but i do not have an "EZ-Pass" (or so i think) and so i assume that the gate has malfunctioned. (please keep in mind that it's been about 10 years since i took the toll roads to New England, and things have changed, as you laugh about this!)

the automated toll booth refuses to give me a ticket, and i don't know what to do, because i know (or think i know) that if i don't get a ticket now i will be in trouble on the far end of the tollway, and i am too honest to do this the wrong way. so i push the button for help, as the line of cars behind me lengthens and people start honking in irritation.

finally, a very nice woman comes across the highway and asks how she can help me. i explain that it won't give me a ticket, and she asks if i have a transponder. i'm sure the look of surprise on my face when i learned that I-Pass and EZ-Pass are pretty much the same thing convinced her that i honestly had no clue, and she was really nice about it, but she said, "it's fine. the gate goes up and you go thru." that's how it works, and i knew that, but i thought there was a mistake about the gate. talking to God about it later, i think honestly He was pleased that i was too honest to try to pull through without being sure it was okay - tho i did feel a little silly. but i learned something in that moment.

open gates are meant to be gone thru. the gates referred to in the Bible are often either city gates or the gates of the Lord's temple - and when they are open, people go thru, and when they are shut, they are meant to keep people out. In Isaiah 60:18, God says that we will call our walls salvation and our gates praise, and as I thought about that, driving thru Ohio, i realized that often i do not treat praise as the open gate that it is to God's presence. but it's true, isn't it? that when we praise Him for who He is and for what He's done in our lives, we stop thinking so much about ourselves and our vision is so much clearer for having looked on Him for awhile.

God also names his gates, and one of the gates in the temple in Jerusalem was called Beautiful. Beauty is an open gate to His temple - and there is so much beauty everywhere, if we will just slow down enough to notice it. Beauty ushers us into His presence, and whether it's the beauty of creation, or the beauty of watching two people in love look at each other, or the beauty of a tremendous musical composition - these too are gates into His presence. And when the gate is open, you're supposed to go through it.

And this is life. I need to be more on the lookout for open gates than I have been, and when I find them - I need to go through. Without hesitation.

and this is life

I would like to tell you that my road trip with Jesus was amazing. Peaceful, joy-filled, fun, adventurous, packed with intimate conversation with the Lord.

It was all of those things.

But it was also incredibly hard.

Spend 4 days alone in a car with Jesus, and it's pretty likely that eventually you'll run into yourself, in all of your miserable, sin-tainted fallenness. And I did. It was pretty hideous. But oh, the grace with which He met me there!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I suppose I should start from the beginning and go from there...

I think I left with a bit of fear that this year's trip would not be as amazing as last year's trip. It wasn't. And it was. And it wasn't. There really isn't a comparison to be made, except that they were both road trips with Jesus. But if last year's trip was about rest and learning to abide in Him at all times, being at rest, no matter what the current pace of life, this one was about life being a journey, and taking it as it comes, good, bad, and in-between. It was also, I think, about finding peace. I'm not sure. I think, as with last year's trip, I will come to understand far more a few months out from here than I could possibly understand now.

But it was good. Amazing. Terrible. Great. Breathtaking. Heart-breaking. Perfect. Confusing. Wonderful. Beautiful. Long. And way too short.

It was what it was.

And this is life. It's a journey, long and far too short - full of heartbreak and trial and breathtaking moments of beauty.

Just before I left, my friend Amanda and I took a day trip up to Michigan to get coffee at J.P.'s and pick apples and buy donuts (yes, seriously, that's all we went for) - and we found this sign at a store that said "The journey is the destination."

"You should get that. It's so you," she said.
"I know. How much is it?"
"It's $42.00." (moment of thought.) "But you could totally make that."

I really might.

a fitting benediction

I'm off this week for what I hope is going to become my annual road trip with Jesus. :) This year I am headed towards Maine (as soon as I finish packing) and I had to laugh - when I asked my mechanic if my car could make the trip (she's getting a little old), he kind of looked at me funny, and then he said, "Well, as long as you don't hit no mooses or nothin', you should be okay."

And he didn't even know about the bison....

It seemed a fitting benediction.

So I'm off, to really only He-knows-where, to learn whatever it is that I will learn and to get quiet for awhile. I am really looking forward to it, and I can already feel myself slowly beginning to unwind. Yay. :) It is going to be a wonderful week. And I am sure I will have new stories to tell when I come home. (Hopefully relatively wildlife-free.) :)