Leaving the serenity and hospitality of the Coons Farm in Hannibal, Missouri was bittersweet. Walks along acres of green pastures every morning with Sophie became a ritual of worship I did not want to give up. The graciousness of our hosts, friends from Pelican Lakes where we had wintered, who drove us through angles and heights of the Mississippi River with a history of her devastating floods, regaled us with stories about local lore, farmlands, and their family, and treated us to every meal we ate (“You’re in my country now! ”Mike bellowed when Dan reached for his wallet), filled our hearts and stomachs with gratitude. It was hard to imagine our trip being any better.
Our Itinerary called, however, so onto Omaha we traveled through lush farmland and seas of cornfields. The trip from Missouri and a slice of Iowa to Nebraska (8 states so far!) offered miles of farms, dotted with stately silver-domed silos along the rolling landscape. Even though we were traveling seventy-plus miles an hour, our biological clocks seemed to slow down as the ribbon of highway unraveled before us. At Offut Field Air Force Base, just outside of Omaha, we settled in and ate heartily of sandwiches made with homegrown Missouri tomatoes.
A visit with the Ostrand family, dear friends who we have loved since they were kids and supported when they were missionaries in South Africa, was the promise of our destination. What a joy-filled reunion we had as a growing line of people hoping to buy a pair of safety glasses for the eclipse wound around the restaurant. The monumental solar event has created a furry of anticipation all along its path.
In case you’ve wondered about those faulty jacks from our stay in Nashville, the report is at a standstill. They have remained up throughout the rest of our stays, adding a bit of rock n’ roll to our trip. Dan opted for caution rather than extended delay until we get to Rapid City, South Dakota, where we plan to stay longer and could have them repaired if necessary. The lack of stability wasn’t noticeable until our brief overnight in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where the slant was extreme enough to cause our stacked cupboards to fly out like an unhinged accordion and the refrigerator door to become a swinging weapon. We rolled downhill to bed that night, looking forward to the flat roads ahead.
We are in Big Country now, having passed by the winding Missouri River and wheeled into the very flat vistas of South Dakota. Vista actually does little to describe the expanse of prairie fields, rolling hills, and ribbons of highway surrounding us, 180 degrees. The flatness spreads like smooth carpet cluttered with occasional billboards and disappearing into an abyss of shadowing hills in the horizon, and ultimately the ominous Black Hills rising up.
At one point we passed oceans and oceans of sunflower fields whose waves of golden faces eventually changed to green pockets speckled with grazing cattle. As the farms gave way to ranches, it became easy to imagine cowboys galloping across these ranges, even with the highway slicing through their ride. Everything seems bigger, wider, and flatter out West. Even the bugs splatting our windshield, hitting hard as mud balls thrown at us are a big messy impression of the wild country ahead.
In spite of all the new adventures and astounding beauty of our trip, I am not numbed to the miles and distances we have passed. I know acutely how far from home we’ve come and what it would take to get back. Sometimes I wake up in the dark and have to think about where we are and what day it is. These are not easy thoughts for one who counts on … what she can count on.
When we were in St. Charles, not far from St. Louis, we stayed at a campground next to a highway flanked by an airport, shadowed by a railroad bridge almost over top of us, and surrounded by dozens of RVs. We were definitely in the middle of a traffic pattern! Looking around at the variety of vehicles as I walked with Sophie, the Holy Spirit whispered an epiphany.
“Everyone here is on a journey going somewhere. They are all on the move and have destination stories.”
How true of all of us, “Even me,” I thought, which is the epiphany because I realized I still had not come to grips that I, too, am a traveler. Even if I stayed home I would still be on a journey where my true destination has been sealed in heaven with Christ. We are all travelers!
What is important about the journey is how we live while traveling. Is my destination story one of anxiety, loneliness, maybe even grumbling? Or do I meet each day as if hearing Jesus beckoning, “Come to Me…”, knowing with joyful anticipation, I am with Him wherever I am?
God has already shown me His paths are good, full of beauty, peace, and wonder. Even though He created the universe with a Word, His picture stories tell me of His Glory. “This,” came the Whisper, “is the better way to travel.”