Monday, July 23, 2012

Traveling the Back Roads

My heart beat faster as I took the exit ramp off of the Indian Nation Turnpike. This was not an Interstate, it was a state highway. I don't take state highways, I stick to the well traveled, well cell phone covered, well populated Interstates. This was definitely not Interstate... I checked my phone again and wondered how I managed to choose this route? I didn't remember taking such small highways the last time I made my way to my sister's. The route seemed accurate enough and it calculated out as shorter time-wise. I decided I would follow the soothing voice on my navigation system. How lost could she get me? (Ya, I tried not to think about that...)

While the Turnpike faded into my rearview mirror something short of magical happened. The landscape began to close in a bit, uncleared by the relative newness of the Interstate system and small towns cropped up unexpectedly. There were few signs heralding the approach of another little hamlet until you were right up on it. The travel speed wasn't much different from Interstate postings and I realized that God had provided exactly what I needed on this trip into Louisiana through the North East corner of rural Texas. I was about to be interested in my drive!

I was rejuvenated and enthralled by the appearance of quaint towns, not a soul in sight on this Sunday, as they basked in the balmy shade of tall, tree lined state and county highways. It fueled my imagination as I drove and wondered what went on in those old homes, cool and brick-clad against the sweltering heat. I admired the porches and the porch furniture (from big wicker rockers to old dining chairs) and thought about how lovely it would be to sit in the evening breeze with a cold glass and good friends. If I had stopped at the Turnpike exit and re-routed I would never have seen the beautiful North East Texas countryside. I would have missed a renewing of my love of southern charm... I would have missed God's gift to me that day.

I realized then that I had always traveled Interstates because I wanted to feel safe. I driven those wide and barren expanses because I could read road signs and track my next fuel stop, my next meal, my next potty break. I wanted security, speed and most of all, control. I do that in my life more than I should. I seek out the fastest, most efficient and expedient route to my destination and forget that the journey too has value. I don't stop to enjoy the moment but careen on to the end-goal. I miss out on the details like tire swings, wading pools, sleepy hounds and effortless landscaping.

I had everything I really needed to step out of my comfort zone on that trip. I had my guidance system, I had company (although traveling with two teens definitely lacks in the conversation department), and I had a way to contact others if I needed help. I didn't have to know my route inside and out. In fact, that was what entertained me as I traveled. I didn't have to stop at a nationally known fuel stop to gas up. That too was rather entertaining! I trusted and I drove and by the time I got to my destination, I realized that I had reached a milestone. I could enjoy the journey... (You do see where I am heading, right?)

I let myself be guided instead of anticipating the next step, the next stop, the next leg of the trip. I slowed down, I took a look around and I inhaled! I know there are interstate moments in all of our lives that we can't see any other way around. Interstates have their places. So do the small country roads, the lanes with the old barns in the distance, the little main streets in small towns with men sitting outside the barbershop... I need those slowed down journey moments more these days than before. I need to allow myself the chance to get lost. In those moments I am learning to come alive.

Each country lane is teaching me to slow down, drink it in and bank the memory. How will I choose to travel my life? Speeding down the Interstate or ambling along a narrow State highway taking it all in? I know I'm not done with the Interstates, but I'm learning to value the back roads as well.

Be blessed and get yourself a little lost today... God is waiting to show you something awesome!