The past several months have been rough. Knocked-flat-on-my-back kind of rough. It seems like it’s escalated the past couple of weeks, and Saturday after I got off work, I just melted into crying mess. I was done.
Then, yesterday morning at church we talked about what our hearts are chasing, especially within the context of money. By the end of that, I was feeling really muddled, because I’ve been pursuing a relocation to Seattle off and on for four years now, and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember why. This is the closest I’ve ever been to this relocation – it’s more real than it ever has been before – but with everything that’s been happening, I began to wonder yesterday if I shouldn’t scrap the idea for good.
I needed to get away, especially out of my own head.
Now, normally, when I need to get away, I pick up a book or watch a movie or a few episodes of a favorite television show. It’s usually less expensive than driving away. Yesterday, though, I wanted to literally get away. So I came home from church, changed my clothes, grabbed my camera and a book (you know, just in case), and hopped in the car.
I decided I wanted to go east, so I wouldn’t be tempted to keep driving if I headed west. I did travel east for a little while, but somehow, I ended up heading north on a highway I’m already pretty familiar with in Oklahoma. Since the whole point of this spontaneous little journey was to get away from what I knew, I took the first exit for a highway I’d never heard of. When I came to the stoplight, I had two options: I could go east to Durant, or I could go west to some place called Waurika.
I’m still not really sure what’s in Durant, Oklahoma, and I wasn’t really curious enough to find out. Besides, I didn’t really want to go east anyway. No, I wanted to go west, and go west I did.
Somewhere along this new highway, the compass in my rearview mirror told my I was going northwest, and I nearly cried at the irony. It was a beautiful stretch of highway, and I drive over the Washita River.
(Photo Credit: Oklahoma Bridges)
Soon, I began to see signs for familiar places and highways again. I’d seen some things I’d never seen before, and I thought about heading back home. A niggling in my heart told me to keep going west.
This time going west meant a smattering of small towns between big, open fields. (The phrase “you’re in God’s country now, son” comes to mind). There wasn’t much to see, but as I passed through one town, it showed it’s location with a heart on the Oklahoma map (pretty sure the heart was bigger than the town), but as I saw where I was, I wondered if this highway would lead me to the Texas Panhandle.
You see, I’ve been wanting to visit the Texas Panhandle for about two years now. Why, you ask? The Texas Panhandle (and more specifically, Amarillo) boasts the second largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro. I’ve never seen a canyon in person, but have always wanted to, being mildly obsessed with geology in general, and rock formation specifically. (My other two favorite Texas attractions are the Natural Bridge Caverns down near San Antonio and the state park in Glen Rose.)
I was very excited at the prospect of seeing the Palo Duro Canyon, but I wasn’t sure the highway I was on would lead me there. There were no signs indicating anything but Waurika. Finally, I came upon another highway that would bring me to Wichita Falls, and I was pretty sure I could make it to Amarillo from there. Somehow.
Along the way to Wichita Falls, I got to see the Red River, where it’s actually red. I also learned we have a dinky town in Texas called Petrolia, and these dinky twin towns called Dean and Dale, which my writer’s imagination thinks are named after cowboy brothers.
(Photo Credit: Shan Richey)
When I got to Wichita Falls, I didn’t see any signs for Amarillo, just signs for Lawton, Oklahoma, and I’d just come from Oklahoma. I thought again about turning around and going home. I mean, I’d seen the Red River where it was actually red, what more could a girl asked for?
But I wanted to see more, so I settled on heading for Lubbock on yet another highway.
About ten minutes on this highway, I hear God whisper to my heart, “You don’t want to go this direction. You want to go to Amarillo.”
“Yes, God, I do, but there weren’t any signs to Amarillo back there.”
“You need to turn around, and head north to Lawton.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
But as I said, I really wanted to see the Palo Duro Canyon, so I turned around and headed north to Lawton as directed. Sure enough, a few miles in that direction, I began to see signs for Amarillo. (It was over 200 miles away, but…) And again my compass was set to northwest. Then, within the next few miles, the highway I had been on in Oklahoma met up with this new highway. I kicked myself a little bit for not staying on it.
Now might be a good time to tell you: of all the things I brought with me yesterday, a map was not among them.
As any remotely reasonable person will agree, I would have saved myself a lot of time by starting off with some direction and by bringing a map.
But eventually, I was heading in the right direction.
And in this stretch of 200 miles heading in the right direction, God and I had a really good heart-to-heart.
First of all, and most exciting to me, I realized this drive is the first leg on the route I’ve charted out for when I move to Seattle. Of course, when that happens, it won’t be fraught with all of the detours. It may not be the next time I drive it, but sometime in the not-so-distant future, it’s going to be a one way drive.
I was getting away yesterday. I was. It was needed and good for my heart and a whole bunch of stuff I don’t really expect you to understand. But when I go to Seattle, it’s not because I want to get away from Texas or my family or my church or anything heavy that I’m dealing with here – it’s because I’m following God’s call on my life, plain and simple. I have had a good life here in Texas, even after I should have left four years ago, and God has allowed me to serve my community in various capacities. He hasn’t made me miserable here in spite of my disobedience, and I don’t think He’d make me miserable if I stayed now. But I don’t think I’d have much peace.
I say this because I’ve been offered some help over the next six months, much-needed help, but the kind of help that keeps me exactly where I am until (at least) March. This may seem ungrateful, but I don’t want to take it, because no one knows better than me how just a few months can turn into years. It’s not because I don’t like Texas (I like it much better after yesterday, actually), it’s not because I can’t wait to get away from my family, or my current job, or church. It’s because I want to have the freedom to get up and go when God says, “Okay, Lydia. It’s time.”
I don’t want to go to Lubbock when I should be heading for Amarillo, if you know what I mean. Of course, now that I’m home, and can look at the map, I see you can get to Amarillo by way of Lubbock. It just would have taken me hundreds of miles out of the way. I’m glad I turned around.
But back to my journey…
As I said, I didn’t have a map, so when I got to Amarillo, I had to follow the signs to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Within what the signs said was ten miles of the park, I kind of expected to see something. The Texas Panhandle is beautiful in its way, but its flat. I began to wonder what I’d driven all this way to see. Two miles away – big, open fields and bushes along the side of the road. Less than a mile away – still nothing.
Then all of a sudden, to the right of the road, the ground drops off, and I see it stretch out for miles alongside of me: the Palo Duro Canyon, rocks red and gold in the sunlight.
I drive in to the first lookout point, and see it stretch out in several different directions. I drive on, and the road winds downward, and I realize, I’m going to get to go down into the canyon. I got to see the walls of the Palo Duro Canyon from inside it!
Some of the roads were flooded so I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, and in addition to being mapless, I didn’t have any kind of first aid kit or way to fend off snakes, so I didn’t walk on the trails. I did find somewhere to park and sit on the hood of my car to just enjoy the view for a bit.
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
All in all, I’m glad I made the trip, detours and all. Next time, though, there will be a plan and there will be a map.
Oh, yes. “I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round…”