Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Home Again

It was dark as I turned into the drive of 1510 West Holly Trail, but the porch light seemed to say, “I’ve been waiting for you….good to have you home.”
The Cruiser rolled in the garage with confidence and the sense of a job well done. I couldn’t ask for a better traveling companion.
I began here on October 4th and stopped to complete the circle before heading to Dallas.
Mom used to go away on trips with Dad and invariably walk in their front door, sigh, smile, and say, “There is NO place like home.”
My heart filled with the realization of God’s abundant grace, as I walked in the back door of my most loved house. It pleased Him to give me a lifetime traveling experience. And, it pleased Him to give me this precious log home.
I was off the road (at least until morning when I head to Dallas) but the road will never leave my heart. The memories will fade, but the impact will be permanent.
There will be two more entries, but I want to thank you for being with me as I rode along miles and miles of highway. I think when I pull in the drive at Parkchester, I will have clocked nearly 4000 miles. WOW! Restoration, reflection, refreshing, rejoicing, reminiscing, remembering, repair ----- all those elements combine to give me a joyful way to close the caregiving chapter and look expectantly to what the Lord has prepared for me.
Give thanks unto the Lord for His faithfulness and His loyal love.

Answered Prayer at the Ambush Museum

Louisiana goes on and on and on. Highway 80 exposes the traveler to the reality without the polish of fast food restaurants and tourist attractions. As I drove through towns with tiny shacks, cotton fields, and cedar swamp bayous, I was ashamed to confess my indifference to and ignorance of how most people live. I was also shocked at my uncomfortable sense as I realized I saw very few white women ---- and no new bright blue Cruisers. It seems 80 has been relegated to locals only. Miles of lonely stretches made me grateful I chose not to do this leg at night. For all those who claim we are out of habitable space, I wish they would retrace my steps. There are literally thousands and thousands of square miles of rivers, trees, and fields containing very few people. We are NOT out of land --- we are out of room for shopping malls. Before I break into America the Beautiful I want to tell you about the Ambush Museum.
Making a sharp curve in a small Louisiana town, I caught a sign out of the corner of my eye, “The Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.” By this time, I was thinking about schedule and making it to the log house with blue garage doors before dark. But, I hadn’t met an interesting person today and this had potential. As I walked to the door, I prayed, “Let me say a word for Jesus.”
“Boots” Hinton sat behind the counter with a distinct Western flair. His colorful style, accompanied by a thorough knowledge of Bonnie and Clyde captured my attention. As he began telling me about the museum and related anecdotes about its owner and history, I found that the schedule really didn’t matter at all….I had met my interesting person! “How did you start learning about Bonnie and Clyde,” I asked. He simply pointed to a sign on the wall describing an honor given to two lawmen for their crucial role in the death of these two outlaws. “See that name?” The name was Ted Hinton. “He was my Dad.” I knew this was a great way to wrap up this day. Story after story about his past poured out. When he was born four renowned lawmen were at the hospital and were his Godfathers. “How could I not be a cop with a heritage like that?”
In retirement after his Dad’s death, he started to complete the tasks left on his Dad’s plate --- one of which was the Bonnie and Clyde Museum in the town where they were ambushed and killed.
Museum owner, Ken Holmes, Jr. of Dallas walked in and helped answer my prayer. “They met their death that day, but I don’t know where they went. They were baptized, but they certainly weren’t walking with the Lord.” A conversation about the Lord followed. Isn’t Jesus good?

The Penultimate Day

I was in no hurry to leave Jane’s breakfast table. Her compassionate, lively conversation drew me to Jesus. I pulled out of Jackson, anticipating rain and gloom, but with sunshine in my soul. The gift of hospitality can never be underestimated. I remembered why I so enjoy “putting a roof” over those who come to Dallas or Holly Lake. Such fun!
My trip took me to Vicksburg where I would access US 80, wind through Mississippi, the entire width of Louisiana, and finally into East Texas and back to Holly Lake.
But this was not to be simply the next to last day of the trip --- this was to be filled to the brim with the essence of the road trip – people and memories.
A decision to devote two hours to the Vicksburg National Military Park was a great one. If you haven’t stopped to share the experience of the Civil War battleground, please do. Buy the CD and move slowly along the 16 mile path, listening to the historical account of such brutal tragedy. Each time I stepped out of the Cruiser to walk, I felt the sacredness of this ground. When the kids were little we took them to Gettysburg. The same emotions arose. Strangely, I found myself identifying with the South even though raised in the North and schooled from a Union perspective. The horror of war becomes so clear. You see the trenches, the remains of dirt fortresses, and the solemn tributes to men who died there.
As I crossed the Mississippi River, I remembered back weeks ago when I moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin across that same giant “Father of all waters.” Being naturally a tad cheesey, I began to sing to the Cruiser, “Old man river, that old man river ---- he just keeps rolling along.” That was not only true of the great Mississippi, but it was true of Brenda and the Cruiser. We were approaching 3500 miles on this journey. Much praise rang out to Christian music during this day. It was time for reflection and rejoicing.
But the day wasn’t quite finished…..stay tuned.

Soul Rest

First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS poured refreshing and refilling into my spirit. The music, the teaching, the worshipful atmosphere, and the presence of the Holy Spirit engulfed me. Ralph and Jane Lord, longtime friends of Mom and Dad, graciously invited me into their lovely home and into their evening church service. It was a very appropriate and delightful way to end the trip on the Trace. After church, Jane served a Southern Sunday supper in the dining room ----the warmth and beauty of the surroundings nourished me, as did the food.
How did Fred stretch you? My question to Ralph opened up a conversation about the lay movement in America, the influence of the Layman’s Leadership Institute in years passed, and the happy memories of Christian meetings. Blest Be The Tie That Binds is accurate and true. These people welcomed me into their home and their lives with joy and grace.

Serendipity in Mississippi

The Natchez Trace map contained a designation for the Mississippi Crafts Center. Loving the Craft centers on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I planned a quick stop before heading to the home of Ralph and Jane Lord. The ultra-modern concrete and glass building looked unoccupied. Sadly, I turned around and headed out, convinced it was closed. A man appeared in front, told me the place was indeed open, and I returned to the parking lot. Signage may be beneath their cultural sensibilities, but it would definitely drive more traffic.
A man walked up and we started a conversation which continued throughout the tour of the gallery. Dick was a former Chicagoan and proudly boasted of retaining his Al Capone accent. As we perused, he asked what I was doing in Jackson. I told him about the road trip. Sure enough, “Are you doing this all alone? Why? What do you do in Dallas?”
At one point he stopped and said, “If you were in Dallas and one of your friends walked up to you, what would they call you?” Now THAT is the most unusual way anyone has ever asked my name.
He told me part of his story including the part where his former wife lives in Palm Beach, Florida, with his money. His weather-beaten, aged car made me think there may be more to that story. He told me he married a younger woman who is full Choctaw. Interesting change!
During our chat I found out Dick is definitely NOT a Republican, NOT a fan of “W,” and not even a particularly strong fan of Texas (how can that be?) And, the answer to all of our water problems is desalinization. Ironically, on NPR the next day was a discussion of that process – hope Dick tuned in.
I gave him a copy of Breakfast with Fred, took his picture, and wished him well ,then remembered I had no idea how to head toward my next stop.
“How do I get to I-55?“ “Just follow me --- I will lead you.” After the longest, most circuitous journey through much of Jackson, he waved and off he went, having delivered me safely to the interstate for my quick trip down a few exits to the Lords’ house.
Hopefully, something in the book will trigger a thirst. The salty sea cannot possibly compare to the saltiness of God’s word. One more photo in the picture album, one more person on the prayer list. Thank you , Jesus, for giving me the privilege of meeting him.

Friendship Touches

“Are you going through French Camp,” asked my friend Johanna. “I have never heard of it, but if I see it, I will stop for you.” Sure enough, it wasn’t hard to fulfill that promise because French Camp sits right on the Trace. It is an old town containing churches, picturesque buildings, and a Christian school. Because it was Sunday, nothing was open….how refreshing. The sunshine, the fall colors, and the sense of history made this stop a moment to reflect….and also thank the Lord for my friend, Johanna.

No Waffling on Encouragement

Sunday started out in the Waffle House, Tupelo, MS. Patricia brought warmth and human interaction to me, a stranger. She definitely seasoned her conversation with grace. As I ate and mused about the day ahead, a well-appointed, leather-attired Harley owner strutted up to Patricia. Each of the women behind the counter tensed. He didn’t look like a Waffle House kinda guy. I am sure they were prepared for a critical comment. He lifted his hand in a thumbs up pose, smiled, and declared: “This is the cleanest Waffle House restroom I have ever seen anywhere…and I have seen a lot of them.” Smiles broke out as they thanked him. “We do our best –it is important to us.”
Funny, as Proverbs says, “a word at the right time – how good it is!” He made their day with his well-spoken praise. It doesn’t take much to strengthen each other. He demonstrated the power of specific encouragement. He didn’t just say, “You have a nice place.” He took the time to point out something that was particularly outstanding. Good job !

Connecting the Generational Dots

“I helped Mary Alice name you,” said Kathleen Horrell. I was dumbstruck. Never did I know how I became a Brenda. “With Smith you needed something outstanding, something unusual, something that would let others know how special you are. Brenda Frasier was a well-known and well-respected woman at the time, so we your Mom and I thought that would be a great name.”
Kathleen and Henry Horrell knew Mom and Dad better than anyone outside family. Mom encouraged her to marry him; she got Kathleen a job at Davis Cabinet Company. Henry and Dad were teenage friends. One of his fondest memories was lying on the parlor living room in Dad’s house with the lights off, listening to Wayne King, and dreaming of making it out of the mill district of North Nashville. Both did!
Tom Cummings told me of the ways Dad stretched him in business. He related stories of Mom and Dad on their shared vacations at Barkley Lodge and Beaver Creek, Colorado. Sitting with him on a sunny afternoon in his beautiful home made me feel very closely attached to Mom and Dad.
Who knows your stories? Who will tell your children? It made me think hard about the power of legacy and the importance of passing along the joys of friendship.
A brief visit to 206 Carden Avenue renewed my love for the Tudor house. I remembered bringing daughter Meredith home and proudly strolling her up the street while toddler Heather ran ahead, laughing. Memories are funny --- they seem so safely stored away, but a few moments standing in front of this house jet propelled me back to the 60s. Happy days!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tracing My Steps

If you ever have a chance to eat country ham and biscuits at Loveless Cafe, do it! I mean it --- do it.

This landmark sits at the entrance to the Natchez Trace, a 450 road which runs along the original trail between Nashville and Natchez, MS. What better way to begin a historical trek than loading up on a traditional Southern breakfast?

Jeff and Anne climbed the hill with me and rode the first few miles before waving me off with prayer and blessing. The combination of good food and great thanks made me smile for many, many miles.

The two hundred miles took me 6 hours....I stopped at overlooks, I stopped and read historical markers, I stopped and ate dessert at Chad's Family Restaurant in a little town just off the Trace....I even stopped a biker named John Prewitt at an Indian burial mound to talk. "You have a really interesting face, could I take your picture?" Turns out he was an interesting man who rode to "get out of the house."

At times I stopped and walked along sections of the original Trace that were still existing. I much prefer paved highways in the Cruiser to rutted roads in primitive wagons. No doubt about it, I am not a pioneer woman.

One funny story. There was a spot identified as the location of a stand where travelers could get water and food. It was called the Sheboss House. Apparently, the English speaking man, when approached by the wagoneers asking for help, would point to his wife and say, "Sheboss!" So, that became the name of the location.

The National Park Service helps us all by preserving our valuable history.

Not many days left......"Mom, will you be sad or glad to get home?" Heather's question last night evoked a very honest response, "I could keep on, but I really miss seeing you all." I cannot remember a trip that brought so much joy. I will share the memories with the Cruiser for ever and ever.

Time to pack up and head for Jackson, MS. 5 or 6 more hours on the Trace!

By the way, the Cruiser is the PCH model... as I type, I hear of the awful fire in California and the closing of the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). I am blessed to keep on rolling with my PCH.

Tennessee Dreaming

The trip from Barkley Lodge to Nashville transported me from days ago to years ahead.

Waiting for me in Nashville were Anne Goldsmith and Jeff Horch. In fact, they greeted me with a red rose and warm hugs.

Jeff is my son....Anne is his fiance.

My brother admonished me to stay on the trip until pulling into Dallas...."you may be on the way home, but keep the sense of adventure all the way." Knowing Jeff and Anne were on this leg kept me totally in the game....this was not just a stop on the way home....this was very special.

Hannah thanked the Lord for the gift of the son --- a child for whom she had prayed long years. I give thanks for Anne, a woman for whom I have prayed for years and years (even though I didn't know her name was Anne.) She will be Jeff's wife in less than a month. They are both blessed.

Friday night we went to 559 CoffeeHouse at the church. It is located in a building, constructed like a barn. They give musicians a stage and 9 minutes to perform. The Nashville sound filled the room. The last group featured two musicians who will be performing at Jeff and Anne's wedding. Judging by some of the young musicians, angst is alive and well in Christian country music!

I didn't have any idea how special the stop in Nashville would be. God is good.

Fellowship at Barkley

Highway 41 took me through Hopkinsville, Ky. The call of past memories took me to Barkley Lodge, 29 miles off the path.

This structure, designed by Edward Durell Stone, built of natural cedars and acres of glass graces the shores of Barkley Lake in Western Kentucky.

Years ago, Mom and Dad built a home on the shore of this lake before it even had water in it! Talk about buying a "pig in a poke." The farm valley was the "stuff of dreams." Lifetime friends, Gabe and May Payne, Governor of Kentucky Edward Breathitt, and Trigg County farmer Smith Broadbent drew a picture for Dad....and it became more beautiful than even they described.

Happy family times on Barkley Lake fill our memory banks.

Then, several couples decided to host a Christian weekend aptly named, Fellowship at Barkley. For years they filled the Lodge with great conversation, bible teaching, music, and good fellowship.

Walking around the Lodge, I could almost hear the sounds of laughter, feel the hugs of friends, taste the country ham and biscuits, and hear the beautiful music....and of course, the teaching of some great teachers like Ray Stedman and Steve Brown. I smiled to myself as I walked behind my imaginary friends, listening to them review the sessions, and commenting on "that Fred Smith --- isn't he something?"

I could see Mom and Dad with their happy faces and their lifelong friendships.

The blazing trees reminded me of the glowing Fellowships.

"What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms!"

We are so blessed to be one in the body of Christ. It was good to touch those special moments.

Ode to Oh-duh-bun

The naturalist, John James Audubon, spoke no Texan. I learned at the Kentucky State Park named for him that he (and all those in the know) pronounce it Oh-duh-bun....not Aw-duh-bon. Who knew? This French naturalist changed the way all of us look at our American fauna.

The friendly Kentucky State Park Ranger strongly urged me to take the audio tour. "Most people just walk through the museum, look around, and never really get to know him." I thought how much that convicted me of my own spiritual life. How often I just walk through looking at His work and don't really "take the real tour."

The tour was quite intense as I heard of his great struggle to make a living for his family. His widow actually sold the original copperplates as scrap metal for money. His genius was in the delicate, life-sized drawings of American birds and quadrapeds. His Birds of America still stands as a preeminent work. The audio tour mentioned he wasn't naturally gifted as an artist, so he worked passionately and determinedly to achieve the level of accomplishment to capture the birds and animals.

Years ago I planned this trip. I googled US 41, noting memorable stops. This Park and Museum were one of my first "must dos." As I walked up the steps to the French Norman stone building, I paused and thanked the Lord for His great gift of this trip. It is emotionally moving when a longtime dream is realized.

Before leaving I loaded my backpack with water and gumdrops and braved the wilds of the 1/2 mile nature walk. Lewis and Clark had nothing on me! I took one of my 3 favorite photos on this "hike." When I figure out how to transfer it from the computer to the blog, I will share it with you. Birds flew free in and out of the trees, filling the air with cheerful, chirpy sounds. I wonder if there will be birds in heaven....

I safely trekked through the deep woods and pulled out of the Museum parking lot, having "fed my soul."

On to Barkley time. Thanks for riding with me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Archie, Poet of Parke County

Some days just can't be described in 300-500 words. In this post you will discover my "most unforgettable character."

Archie Foxworthy lives at the intersection of Serendipity and Supernatural. A hand-lettered sign urging travelers to detour for a two mile ride down a rural lane caught my eye. Actually, it was the “apple butter” scribbled across the top. I am a sucker for apple butter. The monks of Eagle Harbor, MI wooed me away from the main road with their promise of butter blessed by the Lord. And now Archie and his family beckon to me
Probably the Foxworthy name and questions about any possible connection to Jeff spurred me on, as well.
Immediately I knew something special was about to happen. The 1800s wooden schoolhouse had “Sales Room” on a thumbtacked sign, affixed to the open door. The darkness within put me off a bit, but I stepped up and into one of the most precious experiences of the entire trip.
Two men sat in chairs across from a rudely constructed counter. Boxes of jars lined the walls while a middle-aged woman stood silent. Awkwardly, I walked around surveying the produce and eager to find the apple butter. “Daddy is a poet,” she said.
Soon I found out that “Daddy” was Archie Foxworthy. “When I was born my folks was so poor they couldn’t afford a middle name, so I am just Archie from Parke County, Indiana . I make maple syrup and jams…and I write poems, mostly on the swing under that big tree over yonder.
How Dad would have loved Archie!
Well, all I had to do was ask a few questions and he was off and running. “I played the banjo in bands before I married Mama. We played in taverns and I learned lots during those days. But when I got married, I knew it wasn’t right to be in taverns no more….and my children wouldn’t be around – no, sir! So, just as soon as we married, I loosened the strings on the banjo and put it under the bed. I patted it and made a deal, “I won’t tell any stories if you won’t.” With that the banjo went into retirement.
About eleven years later a local group needed a banjo player and came knocking at Archie’s door. “I don’t know if I should or not.” The group had dates for the next two weeks and Mama liked the grocery money. “I will play until you find someone else. As soon as someone comes along then I will move along – no harm. Then I found out they never did look for nobody else!”
“You wanna hear a poem I wrote sitting in that swing under that big tree?” This seemed to be a safer question than asking if I liked old tractors!
Archie leaned back in his chair, pulled on his ear, and starting reciting with great wit and emotion. I don’t think Joyce Kilmer wrote any more poignantly about trees than did Archie.
I knew I was on holy ground…..

He told me about being asked to speak at a Mason’s meeting. “We will feed you and anyone who comes with you – and we will pay you $25.00. But we want you to speak for 30 minutes.”
Archie wasn’t sure he wanted to do that because he “never had done such a thing.” But again, Mama’s foresight and need for grocery money got him in front of the crowd. “I told ‘em something funny, ‘cuz folks always like to laugh. Then I just started talking. Whenever I thought they needed a poem I told ‘em one. They are all up in my head, so when I want one, I just pull on my ear and out one comes. I talked my thirty minutes I promised them. When I got ready to leave the man handed me some folded money. I just put it in my pocket. I didn’t count it or nothing. At home I remembered it and took it out of my pocket. Twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five….whoeee, they paid me $45.00….$1.50 a minute. I never got paid that much before or since….never in my life! Mama was really happy with the grocery money that day.”
How in the world could I leave this place? “Could I take your picture?” “Why, sure –be glad to. And if you buy my CD with my poems (pronounced pomes) on it, I will sign it and date it….yes, sir.” Archie was probably born at night, but surely not last night! I bet he sells a ton of those CDs.
“How about a poem that’s not on the CD?” “My Grandfather used to take me fishing and he would always talk to me. Archie, he would say, there is always a reason for everything. You might not know it right away, but there is always a reason.” I bet Archie never heard of John Calvin, and surely not the tenets of reformed theology, but he had a Grandfather who understood sovereignty.
“So, one day I was sitting in the swing and I got to thinking….why do I go to church every once in a while? I know there is a reason, but I just don’t know what it is. I thought and thought about it. Then I wrote a poem about it.”
After his recitation about why he went to church “every once in a while” we started talking about it. He figured the reason he went to church was because he liked to hear the “parson preach, and pray, and read the Bible about Judgment Day.”
“Archie, the great thing about “standing naked before God” (as his poem said) is when we are related to God through Jesus he doesn’t see us ----- He doesn’t listen to the banjo stories. Archie laughed!
“Could I pray with you before I go?” Unconsciously, I raised my hands in blessing and prayed for the Foxworthy family. While praying I felt Sherry’s hand grasp mine. I could have prayed and prayed!
“Come back and see us,” Archie said. “You don’t have to spend a dime, just spend some time.”
Sherry walked me to the car and her brother sat and repeatedly said, “Gollee” as we talked about driving from Dallas. He sounded just like Gomer Pyle. I expected him to break out into The Impossible Dream any minute!
Reluctantly, I got into the Cruiser, loaded down with jam jars and Archie’s CD. “Thank you for spending time with Daddy. Come back. I’m a born again Christian!”
How could anyone but the Most High plan such an amazing experience? They aren’t just a road trip memory ---- they permanently marked me.
God bless Archie Foxworthy and God bless the USA.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Charlie's Soul Brother

Behind me was the hustle of Chicago; ahead of me was the rustle of fall leaves in rural Indiana. The Cruiser really likes the open just oohs and aahs. North of Attica, Indiana, I passed a farm with a barn crying out for a photo. Knocking on the door of the farmhouse seemed like Yogi Berra's "deja vu all over again." As Jerry walked out, I knew Charlie Meyers in Kansas had a soul brother. Yes, he had a tractor collection. Apparently, there is a fraternity of tractor lovers and Jerry is one of the preeminent members. While the rest of the world looks for traction, I seem to look for tractors!
"It will get real pretty about 4 or 5 miles down the road...not so flat," Jerry said as he said goodbye. I promised to get him in touch with Charlie....networking of the first order.
I had to drive 50 miles out of the way to find a bed for the night ---- apparently the promise of the covered bridges festival in Parke County booked every room extending from Indiana into Illinois. Many tattooed employees climbing out of two trucks and I found respite in Danville, IL. The Lord provides. One of my favorite words is penultimate --- it means second to last. I got the penultimate room -- I will always be grateful.
Stay tuned for tomorrow --- It may be the ULTIMATE experience of the road trip.

Cruiser, Meet Chicago

Open the sunroof and take in the charm of Elmhurst, IL. No agenda (Merry Mary would have loved that!) just a day to enjoy and explore.

The day began with a breakfast, not with Fred, but with longtime friend, Jeff Simonds. The local pancake house provided a great environment for catching up and telling grandparent stories. Road trips are about seeing and being. Spending time with old friends ranks high in the "being" category.

Jeff recommended a route around downtown Chicago, avoiding the traffic and the "questionable" neighborhoods. NAH --- this trip is about doing every mile of 41 - seeing the goods, bads, and even the uglies. So, I proceeded north to the jump off point from Sunday night. North Avenue to Cicero Avenue ---a few "Yo, Texas" shouts and I was deep into the urban experience.

41 heads down the North shore, making its way to the City....a city I absolutely love (and miss so very much). The first sign marking 41 as Lakeshore Drive made me smile. If I had been grandson, Andrew, I would have stood up on the seat and waved through sunroof. "Hello, Chicago! I'm back." But I sedately rolled along, grinning broadly.

As I parked and walked up the steps to the Art Institute, I had a conversation with Dad. "Hey, Dad, I am in Chicago at the Art Institute. Isn't this just the best?" "Snooks, you are having some great experiences. I remember so many good times in Chicago. Make it count and put lots of deposits in your memory bank."

The two hours inside flew by. A few minutes of photo ops and I was back in the Cruiser...on a wing and prayer. 41 weaves its way along the shore of Lake Michigan, through south Chicago, and into the corner of Indiana. How can there be such disparity between the north and south sides? I sat in a carpool line by Adam Clayton Powell high school thinking about the imaginary Maginot line.

I could feel my stress level rise as I twisted and turned, following the 41 signs. I don't know who laid out the route through south Chicago, but he (it had to be a he) ensured I would see each and every neighborhood. I found it interesting to move from one ethnic culture to another within a very small area. West Side Story came to mind.

The congested city streets moved to my rear view mirror and I found myself in rural Indiana. The song, "Back Home in Indiana" rumbled through my brain. As one of the many addresses I have had, Indiana has a special is the birthplace of firstborn, Heather. "Back home ---YAY!"

Next post will be about Jerry, collector of tractors......can you believe it? Charlie has a soul brother.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wheelin' Through Wisconsin

When you leave Door County at 3PM, stop to take pictures, and pick up 41 where you left the path on a day when the Packers have a home game, you get a nearly indescribable experience ---- sitting in traffic for an hour while Pack fans celebrate all the way from Green Bay to Appleton and beyond. Check it out on a map ---- it is a long way. But, to skirt the city and pick up 41 further down would be dishonest.....the conscience of a Cruiser.

Rural Wisconsin changed into North Milwaukee after dark. I was "prayed up" by the time I got to Elmhurst and my bed for the night. Because I was with Northwestern Mutual, I spent several summers in Milwaukee meetings. Believe me, it looks different at night without thousands of shiny NML agents at your side.

Bev and John Birch offered me a most welcome bed in their 1919 Elmhurst craftsman home. A man who worked on some Frank Lloyd Wright era homes began restoring their home to its original clean lines. How refreshing it is to see a family committed to bringing an historical home back to its rightful beauty. They will never lack for a project.

Yes, that is like all of us, isn't it? God is in the restoration process. How gracious of Him.

Opening the Door to Beauty and Friendship

After a quick spin around Lambeau Field (so I could pay homage to Vince Lombardi), I got on the highway heading to Door County, WI.

I got off Highway 41 to spend a day with friends Harold and Jeanette Myra in their Door County condo.....a wise and wonderful choice. "It is the closest to Maine we have in the Midwest," says Harold. Lighthouses, craggy cliffs, picturesque villages, roadside markets, leaves sparkling in the fall sun, breathtaking sunsets into Lake Michigan......shotgun images.

We drove to the top of the peninsula for dinner, watching the sun grandly call it a day. The crisp air, the stimulating conversation, the walks on leaf-covered trails made this a most joyful 24 hour stop.

Stepping away from the goal (riding US41 top to bottom) brought a glorious adventure and fed my soul. Sometimes focus precludes delicious side trips.

On Sunday morning we went to Fish Creek for brunch and a walking tour of this quaint village. Even though full of fall festivalers, it had an easy rhythm. Fresh, brisk air does wonders for a fuzzy brain.

Life is rejuvenating in Door County. And yes, there is lots of restoration. At the end of the trip you will see restoration has become the theme of this road trip. More later.

At 3PM I got on the road. Highway 41 on Sunday night from Door County to Chicago kept me wide time!

Gracious in Green Bay

Coming into Marinette, WI, I noticed men fishing in the river next to the Welcome Center. "What are you fishing for," I naively asked. "Salmon...they are coming up from the Lake (Michigan) and swimming up the river to spawn. I got two nice ones today. Tomorrow there will be people lining the banks."
I laughed to myself because so many times I feel like I live a salmon life --- swimming upstream. In all of God's magnificent creation, this one seems like such a strange pattern.....except it gives speakers good material.

My destination in Green Bay was the elegant, superbly appointed home of the Roloffs. Greeting me with a warm hug, Roberta ushered me to my room - the "visiting artist's suite." As patrons of the arts, they host many guest performers. Imagine me ensconced in the luxurious canopy bed in which world famous musicians slept. Who needs the Lincoln bedroom!

We ate dinner on the Fox river, seeing the lights of Lambeau Field.

One of the greatest blessings on the trip is seeing friends, telling stories, and laughing. Roberta and I shared the goodness of God, and praised Him for His great grace. We told Fred stories and had time to celebrate Dad's life.

It was hard to think of Green Bay as a stop on the southern side of the trip. Funny how experience changes perspective.

The Cruiser rested royally in front of this limestone English manor house and drank in all the class.... I think it ran a little more majestically on Saturday.

On to Door County, Wisconsin.

Finding Good On The Way

What is that white stuff falling from the sky? OHMIGOSH- it is snow! I was talking to daughter, Heather, when rain turned to snow. Thankfully, it was a brief encounter with fluffy rain. Then, with no warning, yellow stuff started to fall all over my car ---- what in the world? Yep, the sun finally returned and sunshine was pouring all over everything.

Oh, what a beautiful morning - oh, what a beautiful day!

Lakes (Great and small) dotted the path. Bays, inlets, rivers brought visual interest to the travel. And then there were the people!

Looking for a picturesque photo op for the obligatory US 41 sign, I spotted a farm (yep....another one). I stopped and quickly a man walked toward me to check out what this Blue Cruiser had in mind. "May I take a picture of the road sign?" "Yeah, but why?" When I told him about the road trip he shared about his time in Mesquite, Texas. It was right after the service and a time when employment was scarce in Wisconsin. "Why did you move back?" "Oh, everybody wants to come home when they can ---- and for sure when they retire."
It made perfect sense when he said it, but retirement in rural, northern Wisconsin probably wouldn't hit AARP's top ten list.
Aaron Sanford and his wife take care of elderly. "My wife just has a heart for older folks. Most times they don't have anybody who visits them. And we have been the only people at their funerals. We have 13 now, but used to have 25." They had three residential care facilities and his wife spent her day taking care of these lonely, dying people. Not surprisingly, Aaron and his wife are Jesus followers.

He stood by his mailbox and waved. WOW! I really love this trip.

Farewell to Mary and Bill

Have you ever told a story and then realized it was a "you just had to be there kinda tale?" Bill, Mary, and the Lighthouse are moving more and more into that category.

Highway 41 snakes its way through the Upper Peninsula, hugging the shoreline of Lake Superior and then turning south to enter Wisconsin. It is NOT the "as the crow flies" route. When I told Mary I would be leaving before breakfast to cover the travel from Ahmeek to Green Bay, she got right in my face and asked, "What is so important about your agenda? Get off the schedule and enjoy yourself. You don't want to miss my breakfast tomorrow......go play the piano and chill."

After dessert that night Mary whispered she wanted to talk with me. She told me of a trip she and her father were planning before he died. She went ahead with it ---- it was her way of affirming my "road trip." Then with great enthusiasm and the lightness of TinkerBelle she said, "Come on!" She decided to give me the lighthouse tour at 11PM because I wouldn't be around for the apres-breakfast extravaganza. We climbed and climbed - at breakneck speed. I thought maybe we were headed for some ET encounter in the midnight hour.

As Mary climbed the ladder to the top, I wished her well and told her I would enjoy the view from just where I was. When she opened the door, walked out on the ledge, and exclaimed, "It is so beautiful ---- look at the ships ---- you can do it!" I was absolutely positive I made the right decision to forego the final climb. Mary's ecstasy was hers to enjoy. And, I thoroughly enjoyed it at a distance.

She told me about her ascension of Mount Everest and her acquaintance with Sir Laurence Olivier. There are just not enough posts to adequately cover Merry Mary and Brilliant Bill. I will wave goodbye, but you will probably see the touch of them on my life.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Tearful Terminus

Many of you have heard me say for years and years, "Someday I am taking a road trip.... I want to travel Route 41 from Copper Harbor, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Miami, Florida."
Dad often said, "Brenda, why don't you take your trip?" "It's not time, Dad."

I stood at the end of the Keweenaw Peninsula, feeling like I was at the end of the world. The old car parked by the trail to the Lake worried me a tad, but nothing would deter me from Thursday's goal: BEGIN THE JOURNEY. I looked at the sign stating that this spot, hidden away in the Fort Wilkins State Park, was the official point of departure for US 41, continuing for 1990 miles.

For me, it signified "it was time." I stood quietly, thinking of Mom and Dad, and recognizing the impact of this trip. You are with me ---- and so are they!

Have you ever dreamed of something for a long time and then had it come true? Sometimes it doesn't live up to the expectations. This day was far better... Thank you, Lord, for bringing me so far in safety. Thank you, Lord, for making this real.

At age 41 my life changed dramatically. On route 41 my heart feels whole.

The Cruiser and I spent a happy, happy day driving up and down Peninsula roads, exploring and absorbing the beauty of the UP. An aside, did you know the folks who live there call themselves Yoopers? I saw a sign, Yooper Lodge, and laughed about a family with such a funny surname. Live, learn, and keep your mouth closed so as not to appear totally touristy!

Lighthouses Are Near Water

Lighthouses are near Water!
“I am going to stay in a converted lighthouse right on Lake Superior,” I told everyone with great anticipation. “Right on” has a new meaning for me. It is truly a “duh” moment, for I should have known lighthouses are not near, not adjacent, not fashionably close ----- but RIGHT ON! That means when the wind pushes you toward the front door it attempts to give you a taste of sea life. (Written as a note to myself last week, but thought you would enjoy!)

I got back safely to the Inn and into a suddenly warm and happy place. Seated around the parlor were 14 other guests. We ran through the “my name is so and so ---- I’m from such and such-----and this is how I found out about the Inn.” Of course, I was the only single person among 7 married couples. “You are traveling all by yourself? You came ALL THE WAY from Texas?”
After serving a scrumptous dessert, Mary began her story of their love for the lighthouse. Even though she has told the story hundreds of time, she enters into the drama as if it were the first time. Merry Mary lives up to her name with a great flourish.
The post-dessert concert featured Mary and her 105 year old piano. The anxiety evaporated as I sat down next to Nancy. Her obvious faith in Jesus calmed my fears and let me know this greatly anticipated stop was a good choice.
More ---- much more later.
Oh, check out Bill and Mary at (and I thought was a bunch of letters!)

Road to the Lighthouse

It has been a long time since I have had a way to get online, it is good to have you riding along. The Cruiser and I missed you!
I promised you a story about Mary and Bill. How in the world can I begin such a rich chapter of the journey? I guess at the beginning…
The leafy and luxuriant trip to Ahmeek, MI reminded me what good work our God does! Is there anything more beautiful than fall leaves? Even the cold and rain couldn’t discourage me.
I turned down the road leading to Five Mile Point and made my way mile after mile toward Lake Superior. At one point it looked like the road was heading straight into the swirling waves of this massive Great Lake.
Pulling into the driveway , the wind caught me and I honestly worried about landing in the stormy deeps.
Merry Mary welcomed me, followed closely by Bill who brings Roy Orbison to mind.
Realizing the cell phone and the computer were useless, I experienced an emotional slump.
I found the only hotspot on the Peninsula and sat for 3 hours, clinging to email connections, and hoping the Lighthouse would turn into a Marriott!
The darkness slipped up on me, so I hurried out to the Cruiser and started down the 8 miles of rainy road. The Lake was still there and I was nearly late for dessert and entertainment…..more on that later.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Seeing the Forest Through The Trees

Seeing the Forest Through the Trees

This leg of the journey is way too rich for one post. I will break it into delicious bites for you.
Wednesday’s drive was delicious (one of my synonyms for beautiful). The entire ride took me through one National Forest or another. Even though late for full color, this Texan reveled in the lushness of the trees. How can anyone say we are running out of room in the US? I literally drove miles and miles, spotting very few houses.
Along the streets of Hancock,MI were lines of lifesize posters featuring pictures of Grandmas ---literally. Remember inserting your head into period costume cutouts and being photographed? That is what the entire main street looks like. At the end is a blank one for anyone to use. They call it Grandma doors. It is rather startling to see block after block of octogenarians in “all manner” of dress.
Finlandia College is here, as well. The town’s distinctive Scandinavian flavor gives you a sense of having traveled way more than 1300 miles from home.
I stopped at the Quincy mine.. As I descended into Houghton, MI, a great hill stood before me, covered with quaint houses and colorful leaves. Dominating the view was the old copper mine. A woman in McDonald’s (where I unsuccessfully tried to get online) drew me a map to the mine. The rain and cold helped me decide NOT to take the tram and surface tour. The sheer terror in my heart when contemplating a 2 hour mine tour WAY BENEATH the surface made that decision an easy “No, thank you.”
The history of the Keweenaw County Peninsula intrigues me. The Eagle Harbor Light Station advertises an exhibit of artifacts left by copper miners of many millenniums ago….besides clearly “mis-pluralizing” millennium, doesn’t that mean thousands of years? Had Christopher Columbus arrived on the Lake Superior shore, copper miners would have greeted him with trainloads of ore!
The next post will introduce you to Mary and Bill, proprietors of Sand Hills Lodge…..stay tuned

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sightseeing on Highway 8

Spending the day on a two laner through Wisconsin was the epitome of this road trip….

Despite cold and sprinkles, this day took me out of the Twin Cities into beauty of rural life. Someone please send me some synonyms for beauty ---- I need a bunch. I used to tell my kids God’s creation filled my soul. This has my spiritual gas tank permanently on F.

I am beginning to think I am the only non-upper midwesterner in these woods. I would be thrilled to see a license plate from anywhere south of Kansas.

A sign offering pumpkins and maple syrup attracted my attention just past Balsam Lake. ¼ mile down the road sat Glenna Farms. The young man inside gladly told his story of growing up on the dairy farm down the road, and then heading for the big city and a fast-lane, big bucks job. When the maple tree farm was offered to his Dad, he started thinking about what he and his family really wanted in life. At age 36, he traded air miles for the fair smiles of his wife and daughters. Now, they turn maple sap into syrup and send it all over the country.

“Where do you recommend for lunch?” “The Paradise Lodge --- it is a large log building down on the lake. It is a little off the road, but worth it.” How right he was. I ate wild rice/chicken soup while watching birds fight the winds across the lake. The water was surrounded by maple trees and something that is very Aspen-like. (I don’t know much about names, but thoroughly enjoy them, anyway).

Miles and miles of National Forest ushered me into Eagle River, WI where I settled into the Super 8 for the night…. I and most of the construction workers in northern Wisconsin, it seemed.

“Where could I get a good dessert?” I asked the front desk clerk. “I don’t know --- I don’t ever eat them.” It turns out the restaurant directly across the street had great homemade pies ---- her loss.

Just in case you always wanted to know, the International Snowmobiling Hall of Fame sits proudly in Eagle River. That is another sport I failed. No wheelies, but an embarrassing fall. Guess I am not featured in this museum!No computer connection there, so I am waiting for a McDonald’s to send this along. Thanks for praying ---I can tell and it gives me peace like a river.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Inklings and Wonderment

The AAA map denotes "scenic drives" with a series of dots on either side of the road. I wonder how they make these calls. In states like Iowa and Minnesota with such natural, rural beauty, what makes the cut? How do they give dots to one state and deprive another? Oh, well, such deep philosophical questions will have to wait for another day.

I left Des Moines later than planned, so the draw of the dots grew less. And, I must confess I even rode on the Interstate after fighting city traffic and school zones on the "off the road route." Sad when there is more peace on the pavement of I35, isn't it?

"What is the best way to access 169?" Do you know what the attendant at the Minnesota visitors' center did? Pulled out the map and put his finger on the origin of the road ----- probably 100 miles SOUTH of where I was. I guess I framed the question wrong...shudda been, "What is the best way to access 169 from HERE?"

I called my friend to tell her to hold my room for a late arrival. When I mentioned my direction she practically shouted, "You are going to go by the farm --- you HAVE to stop." No, there were no farmers and no tractor barns, but this is no ordinary farm. When you have an opportunity, check out My friend is one of the nation's premier daylily hybridizers. What a treat! No one was around, so I just poked around. Yes, the house does look like that ---- in fact, it is more stately and more beautiful.

She literally fell in love with daylilies and gave up her career as one of the top women executives in the country. She loves what she does - and she does it well. One of the attractions is the ability to name any new species. So, she gives them names like King of kings, Isle of Patmos, Man of see a pattern. Yes, she witnesses as each person orders their plantings.

It encourages me to find ways to speak the Savior's name in unique ways. The Lord has wrapped the Cruiser and me in a great peace. I am having such a good time. I only wish you were with me.

My son, Jeff, talked with me as I drove across state highway 19 through New Prague on the way to Belle Plaines.....such grand beauty. We have a God who loves to abundantly and lavishly share His creativity. Thanks be to God for all things bright and beautiful.

Headed through Wisconsin today. Thanks for riding with me in prayer.... I am praying for you, as well.

Sentimental Journey

Des Moines was home for 5 winters, as you know. What you may not know is I lived in a downtown hotel. Yes, I did the grownup version of Eloise at the Plaza.....well, maybe I wasn't Eloise and the Hotel Fort Des Moines wasn't the Plaza, but hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Before leaving town I met a former work friend for lunch at the top of the tallest building in Iowa (and probably still the tallest building between Chicago and Omaha....). If you ever see an Iowa license plate it sits proudly among cornfields and probably a pig or two. From the wrap-around windows you can capture the entire panorama. I had forgotten how far you really can see on a clear day in Des Moines.

The day was bright blue after a long night's rain. About 4AM yesterday I resigned myself to hunker down and see how the Cruiser and I would do navigating the flood. But to my elation, the rain just served as a nocturnal cleanup crew for central Iowa.

How I wish you could see all the changes in this city. It is absolutely beautiful with baskets of flowers hanging from the light poles and lush gardens welcoming visitors. Meredith Corporation (not my daughter, but the parent of HGTV and House and Garden magazine among others) created a gorgeous area that serves as a test garden.

I wheeled into town with great confidence, turned down the street adjacent to the Hotel, and put on my turn signal to access the rear parking lot.....whoops! there is NO driveway, it is now a building...a beautiful new office building. How can this be? Guess I was saved by my Texas plates on this one.

But as I put my hand on the heavy old doors, memories rushed back. I had opened that door (usually toting my computer and a ton of paperwork) so many, many times. I felt such a fondness for that time. It was still old and yet in its 85 years it had gained an elegance. At the front desk stood Deb, who welcomed guests and charmed all during my stay. My daughter and I attended her wedding in the upstairs ballroom in the mid-90s. "Do you remember a lady who lived here in 1103?" I asked. She was so warm in her response.

I could regale you with stories of crazy residents like Tiny Tim (yes, the ukelele guy), a totally dysfunctional young heiress, and lots of political wannabees, but this is about today and the memories the Cruiser and I are creating.

But just for a moment I was able to introduce the Cruiser to a most special chapter in my book, knowing that we were at that very moment inking the pages of another one....pretty cool!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Steel Drums and Celebration

Imagine my surprise as the steel drum band began in the 150 year old Plymouth Congregational church in Des Moines, IA. The Caribbean tones reverberated from the high arches, swirling around and around the sanctuary.

The fully-robed and stoled senior pastor sat in his chair with a serious demeanor. However, his feet gave him away. The shiney wingtips were tapping to the music. But his face stayed reverentially serious. Then, the strangest thing happened --- his entire feet started to move, then his knees, and then his shoulders ----after that a smile broke out and I knew the steel had stolen his heart!

Have you ever heard a steel band's rendition of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring? It is mesmerizing. I think even Bach would have approved. Fugues with mallets are fascinating.

When the pastor referred to the Holy Spirit as "she" and even more as a "stubborn she," that was a tad unsettling. But it was good for me to get out of the conservative cocoon for awhile and see the power of the Word break through.

We of the "reformed way" focus on right thinking and right doctrine ----sometimes to the exclusion of right living. In this self-professed liberal church which encourages debate, and appears to be the epitome of the synthesis out of thesis and antithesis, I found a strong emphasis on love.

As I sat alone in the pew, the couple behind me had the most touching interchange. "I really love this church," she said. He responded, "And this church loves you." That shot through my heart. How many times would a couple say this in our right thinking churches? Then, the Holy Spirit (I prefer the him version) spoke --- "Brenda, this is your job. What are you doing to show my love to those at Northwest Bible?" Pretty hard to be 600 miles from home and still get penetrated by the arrows of faith.

Thank you for praying. I feel your presence through the peace He gives. Today I head for Minneapolis on highway 69....the Cruiser is on the roll! My aim is to stay off the interstate and out of tractor barns! Ciao.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Charlie and the Tractor Barn

Driving along highway 69 from Baxter Springs, I spotted a "photo op." In front of the farmhouse stood an antique tractor, bales of hay, ears of corn, and a windmill. I pulled in, and started walking toward the house to ask permission from the owner to tromp on his yard. He began a friendly Kansas farmer conversation about how he had built the windmill by hand and how much he loved old tractors. "Take as many pictures as you want - I am heading down to feed the cows." Within minutes he was back. "Do you like motorcycles?" I then told him about getting kicked out of motorcycle school after doing some inadvertent and definitely inappropriate wheelies before a gasping class. "No, I don't ride." "Here is a picture of my Harley. Wanna ride?" "I will just take my picture and be heading to Kansas City."
Next question was, "Do you like old tractors?" Hey, what is there NOT to like about old tractors? So, of course I said, "yes." "Well, my tractor barn is about a mile down the road. Why don't you finish up here and come on down?" Even typing this, it sounds crazy, doesn't it?
There were three tractor barns with truly antique machines - giant machines - and all manner of farm implements. Charlie gave me a full tour with all the details tractor by tractor. About the time he invited me to climb up into a mountain of a machine called a combine I decided the road was calling! And especially after Charlie took to friendly pats and smiles.
"Well, Charlie, I really have to be going. I wish I had a tractor to offer you for your collection, but all I have is a coffee mug." (Always have a BWF coffee mug handy ----)

"What I would like is for you to have breakfast with me,"said Charlie. I imagine no one had shown quite an interest in his tractors for quite a while. And, perhaps he had watched the Bridges of Madison County a time or two too many!

It was time to go.....I know, what was I thinking? It was just a road trip adventure in living color...But I am glad Fred and Mary Alice weren't around to hear about it.

I waved cheerily to Charlie and headed to Kansas City amused at my hour on Charlie's farm.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Weary Women Rule The World

I have a great story to tell you, but it will have to wait until tomorrow ---- this weary road warrior is bushed.

Let me leave you with two catch-ups from yesterday......Jesse James robbed a bank in Baxter Springs, KS. And probably my favorite quote from the day in Arkansas. When I asked the visitor center employee how far it was to Joplin, MO, she replied that she didn't know but it was 40 miles to the border of MO and AR. " Of course, if you get behind a chicken truck in Decatur, it is a lot longer." I now know Yogi Berra has relatives in Arkansas.

Sleeping in Des Moines tonight.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Cruisin' on the Route

I am blogging when I should be logging ( at least sawing logs...) What a day! It started out in a log cabin with blue garage doors 5 miles east of Pine Mills, Texas. I am sitting in a house built before the turn of the century (20th, not 21st) on Route 66 in Baxter Springs, Kansas.

I touched 5 states today and mostly stayed in the state of gratitude, appreciation, and wonder at God's creativity and His timing.

Realizing I was going through Siloam Springs, AR. I stopped to ask directions to John Brown University. As I have friends who are grads, I thought it would be fun to snap a photo of the front sign before heading on up AR59. It turned out to be Homecoming and parking was at a premium. Thankfully, the Cruiser and I don't take up much space, so we squeezed into a spot next to an academic building. Heading toward campus I saw a man walk from the building ---- the closer I got, the more familiar he looked. It was a man from my Dallas Sunday School class who is a 29 year board member of JBU! He gave me a wonderful private tour of the school and sent me on my way. Okay, you statisticians ---- what are the odds of that? Just that moment?

All day I thought about what I would say to you all about the day. I could again tell you how much I love my Cruiser....but you already know that. I could tell you that there are Wal-Marts on every corner in Arkansas, like there are churches in Texas, but that's probably not too interesting.

I could tell you on a very steep, very curvy road in Oklahoma I thought the Cruiser and I were short-lived (literally) as a young man in a sports car came speeding from the opposite side using both lanes.....but other than worry my kids, this is probably not noteworthy.

Then I got to Baxter Springs, Kansas where I am ensconced in this wonderful old house, visiting my friend Linda and her witty 91 year old aunt Ruth. Life got very interesting at that point.

At dinner I heard all about the tourism development of South Eastern Kansas and the rejuvenation of buildings. She told me about one of the few existing Phillips 66 service stations still in existence ---- right on Route 66 in Baxter Springs. As it just so "happened" the lights were on and three weary, but dedicated volunteers were scraping, regrouting, painting, and cleaning for the grand opening which will soon occur. The committee has taken on the total restoration of this building to its original glory. I felt like I had dropped into a time capsule as I toured the old building. Visions of tourist courts, unairconditioned cars, and water bottles hanging from radiator caps flooded my mind. What a treasure.

One of the volunteers is the Kansas state representative for the national Route 66 committee. She is a walking treasure and repository of all things 66. Of course, all I could think of was two guys in a Corvette covering the country. Suddenly, my Cruiser and I were part of history!

So, sometimes finding the pearl in the oyster takes awhile. I loved my day- I played Christian music so loud even my grandsons would be impressed. I sang, I talked, I prayed....and generally rejoiced.

Tomorrow is another LONG day, but it will end up in Des Moines ---- my home for five winters (that is how they count time up there!). Talk to you later. See you on the road......cruising for Jesus! :)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mickey and the Cruiser

Remember the guy who lived on nothing but McDonald's food and turned out looking like a human medicine ball? (For the young ones, that is one of those giant exercise orbs...) It appears my AT&T wireless network was built by very well-read and hungry engineers.....the only sure places on my journey will be McDonald's and Barnes/Noble. I wonder how little you have to eat to still ethically use the space and the wifi environment? Guess I will find out in the next 3 weeks.

My PTD (Planned Time of Departure) was 5:00pm Central. All the traffic gave me time to reflect on the yearning I have to get on to state highways and leave the interstates behind. As big trucks machoed their way along I635, pressing my little Cruiser closer and closer to the edge, I longed for a curvaceous Arkansas highway, long deserted by the big rigs.

Tomorrow morning is the first test of my alone time tolerance. When I land in Baxter Springs, Kansas, I will have been on the road for about 10 hours ---- probably running through the A list of CDs and creating a massive sunburn on my left arm. But that is the essence of a road trip. And, that is what we are going to experience together.

I am asking the Lord to give me opportunities every day to say a word for see Him in His creation, to find glimpses of Him in the people I meet. Clocking miles without engaging my heart is rather shallow.

As I sit here I am watching a young Dad playing chase with his two girls. He isn't doing it because he has to ---- he is really enjoying it. They are all laughing. How often we do the right thing because that is exactly what it is --- the right thing. Our Lord wants us to shout for joy as we run before Him. This Dad is a great picture of our Father who so thoroughly enjoys us. Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me how much fun our faith can be. Tag, you're it!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Productivity in Hyperwarp

First Dad and then Zig Ziglar wisely observed: "The days before vacation are the year's most productive times."

My to-do list started as a reasonable assemblage of activity.....then it moved into a crazy assortment of items achievable only by a twenty-four hour blitz. When I found myself writing a list on the McDonald's napkin as my daughter taught me how to do wi-fi, I knew I had crossed over into some darker space.

As young marrieds in First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee, we used to talk about leaving our house "dying ready." That meant we would not only have the obligatory clean underwear on required by our mothers "in case you were in an accident," but your house qualified for inspection by the "church ladies," in case you didn't return home. When they brought casseroles, they would ooh and aah rather than cluck their spiritual tongues.

Although the thought does pass through my mind briefly, a post mortem visitor will just have to be appalled at my dust tolerance. Conceptions should be immaculate, not the backs of bookcases!

The clock ticks down to rolling out of the driveway time. I am excited, but a bit tenuous. "Are you going by yourself?" has been asked enough to actually seep into my consciousness. Am I going alone? It may look that way, but the answer is definitely NO. I have the love of my family, the encouragement of friends, the ever-present Holy Spirit, and the sweet blessing of my heavenly Mom and Dad. As I pull up to a McDonald's in Eagle River, Wisconsin to write, I may look alone and far from home with my Texas license plates, but I will be just as "at home" as if I were driving the streets of Dallas. I will be driving that "great cloud of witnesses" on this road trip. And they will thoroughly enjoy the scenery.