2500 miles along, and he still hasn’t let me drive.
i’m not complaining. really. I do love to drive though, and I will happily take that responsibility off of his shoulders when he is ready – but for now I’m perfectly happy riding shot-gun and here’s why:
1 – I know my husband and I honestly don’t expect him to let me drive. After all, pulling 36 feet of camper & 10,000 lbs is still a new experience, and every day brings new terrain – so it’s hard to get completely comfortable with the task – but even if we were totally confident road warriors, the fact remains that the man likes to drive. I’ve know that for a long time. Jeff & I have been together for 18 1/2 years now and while we’ve both grown and changed in many ways, in others we are & probably always will be the same. So, knowing him well, I began this journey with the reasonable expectation that the drivers seat would be his.
2 – The longest we’ve stayed in any one place is 4 days, which means that every 3-4 days we have pulled into a new location & had to maneuver our home into position, level it, unhitch, and set up camp. That comes with some stress, and while I can share in that somewhat, ultimately Jeff, as the driver, carries the responsibility of getting our camper into these sites without knocking out a tree, a utility pole, a picnic table, or me – while I’m at the bumper yelling “A little to the left – no right – no – STOP!”. At some point, I would like to learn how to do this – after all, if you know me, you know I have a fierce independent streak. But for now, I’m perfectly happy to let him handle the task of positioning our camper into place.
3 – But the real reason that I can happily let him drive — – being in the passengers seat frees me up to see the landscape of our country change time and time again. Every time it has been a total delight. If I were driving, at least part of my attention would be elsewhere, but because I’m not, I get to fully enjoy these moments of total awe & wonder.
Awe & Wonder.
Those two experiences are hard to come by these days.
We get older, busier, and little miracles go unnoticed. Unless, that is, you have a 4 year old. They know how to do Awe & Wonder!
But it’s been so long since our kids yelled “Mommy, a COW!” from their carseats, or stuck their noses so far into a day lily for a sniff that they emerged with huge smiles & yellow-orange pollen all over their noses & eyebrows, or chased butterflies in the backyard – giggling with pure joy, or insisted on eating their breakfasts on the porch so they could tell Bobalina – the auburn-breasted robin who built her nest in the trusses of our front porch roof – that they would be going to the zoo today.
Yes, when they were little, Awe & Wonder was a part of daily life.
But they grew.
And we aged.
And life gradually became more schedule & less wonder. More busy & less play. And before we knew it, those kids woke up just in time to brush their teeth & hair & catch the bus, we were off to work, and everyone came home in the afternoon and retreated to their phones, video games, and favorite Netflix binge.
“Go outside & play” – I would say.
“But mom, I’m in the middle of a game” – he would say.
“But mom, I have 10 minutes left in my show” – she would say.
And I would sit in my chair and scroll through facebook, or invest myself in something work related, and day after day would pass – void of Awe & Wonder.
You have probably all heard that story about the frog in a pot of water. If you slowly turn up the heat, the frog slowly adjusts until the moment arrives when the pot gets too hot – the water comes to a boil, and the frog boils with it – in total surprise. It happens so slowly, so gradually, and death arrives entirely unnoticed.
Maybe that’s a melodramatic comparison to what our normal was like before The Road – but then again, maybe it isn’t….
We were created for Awe & Wonder moments – And creation is full of little miracles to inspire those moments – if we’re looking. But somewhere along the line, most days anyway, I stopped. I stopped looking.
Thankfully, Creation is also full of HUGE, UNMISSABLE miracles as well – for those of us who have lost our thrill of cows & day lilies entirely.
Miracles that can jolt us out of the slow boil in the blink of an eye.
The Badlands of South Dakota certainly fall into that category!
We had been traveling West on I90 for hours. The prairie grasses were alive – like a green ocean breathing with the breezes – and while beautiful, after hours and hours they had lulled us into the inevitable “Are we there yet?”.
Our phone signal was great in this open country, so we decided it would be a good time to call Grandma! We told her all about the flooding we’d seen in Illinois, about the wild marijuana we found all over Louis & Clark State Park in Iowa (that’s a great story for another time…lol), and about crossing over into South Dakota that morning to visit to the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose & the Corn Palace in Mitchell earlier that day. We were mid-sentence when we all gasped collectively & said in unison, “WOW!!!” – and, in a blink, the prairie was GONE and the stark, jagged, white-grey rock formations of the Badlands took it’s place.
I’ll never forget it.
I’d never seen anything quite like it.
As we tried to tell Grandma what we were seeing, it became obvious that words were going to fail, so we gave up on trying, said our goodbye’s, and our I love you’s, and promised to send pictures. Our wide eyes got wider as we took the exit and entered Badlands National Park.
The sun was low in the western sky and would be setting in the next hour. The rusty early evening glow set the rock formations on fire.
We stopped at the first scenic overlook, fully embodying our former 4 year old selves, and soaked it in.
Over the next 4 days in the Badlands, I lost track of how many times my soul said “WOW”.
We saw our first Buffalo and herds of Big Horn Sheep.
We heard the unmistakable warnings of prairie rattle snakes.
Being the good tourists that we are, we also ventured into Wall Drug for a donut, the novelty t-shirt, and a sticker for the back of the camper.
And when it was time to strike camp & journey on I looked at Jeff and said, “I wonder how many times I can see this landscape before it stops being amazing…”.
The Badlands stirred something that my soul had forgotten.
Almost as if that collective gasp that we shared when we first saw them filled my lungs with the Holy Breath of Life. My husband has told me often that he feels closest to God when he takes a walk in the woods. Surrounded by creation. And I’ve certainly found peace in nature – but this experience – this Awe & Wonder – reminded me that this world that we’ve been given, all of it’s beauty, was created for us to see, to touch, to care for, and most importantly, to point us to our Creator.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels;Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the Name of the Lord! For He commanded and they were created.
This creation – what a beauty. What a gift we’ve been given.
And we are, all of us, so blessed.
Wherever you are today, whether you step out your door into the trees and farmland of Indiana, or the shores of the ocean, or the mountain peaks – I hope you take a moment to see the beauty in what God has created for you to enjoy and inhabit. I hope you see the little miracles, and know that the One who created the perfection of butterfly wings and the beauty of the Badlands also created you, on purpose – with a purpose.
Dear friends, I hope you have a little moment of Awe & Wonder today, and through it know that you are loved.