The drive from Atlanta to Los Angeles was seamless, made easier by the fact that my friend Mary came with me. We spent 12 hours listening to the Serial podcast (if you haven’t – do it), a couple of sermons, attempted an Ernest Hemingway audio book (not recommended), and listened to the same few playlists until we were sick of them. We got hangry. We laughed a lot. She was the perfect road trip partner.
Mary and I came prepared. We had two bags, and one cooler packed full with healthy snacks because we really care about feeling good and eating healthy. That’s why we had dairy queen, chili cheese fries, gas station hot dogs, and hot cheetos on our trip. The healthy snacks went almost untouched besides the first day that we had a 5 hour drive from Georgia to Tennessee. Gas station. hotdogs.
We left Atlanta to drive to Clarksville, TN, where my family is so that I could see them one more time before the 9 long months until Christmas. Mary and I went for a walk, and sat on the porch and had a beer with my witty grandpa. My mom was cooking dinner. We were all sitting around on our wrap around porch, talking, laughing, and watching the sunset into the Tennessee hills. The stillness, the feeling of knowing that this was the place I get to go back to, this was the place that I get to call home, was exactly what I needed to carry with me leaving that next morning. I got one last home cooked meal from my momma, and I was off.
I can palpably feel how hard it is for my mom to let me go each time I leave, whether it’s leaving for a destination that is 300 miles away or 2000, it’s hard for her. It’s hard for me too because you are leaving a place where you are so wholly accepted (even more than accepted, constantly praised-my family all seem to think I’m the most special thing God ever put on the earth) and loved. You don’t have to try with them. It’s so comfortable. It’s hard to leave every time, to venture back out to the world on my own where I have to work for people’s affection, it isn’t granted to me by nature and familial attachment. I’m so thankful that we got that time, that I got to carry a fresh sense of how loved I am out with me.
Leaving Clarksville we stopped in Memphis to get some lunch. Walking around that city was a further reminder of how much I love the rich culture and heritage of the south. There is so much history around every corner, in every state.
We then drove through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico and I’m sorry to say, there isn’t much to tell about these places.
We stopped in OKC and had some local beers, and chili cheese fries for dinner, in a hotel that was housing a bunch of people who had spent the day at a cattle sale. I honestly loved Oklahoma, consumed by the thought that so many people live in the in between, in the heartland. The most populous areas of our country are coastal, and it seems like the vast amount of land between the West Coast and East Coast remains largely forgotten. It doesn’t even seem like they could be a part of the same world that I know. The world felt a lot smaller to me before I made this trip.
The next morning we left Oklahoma and drove through Texas and New Mexico.
Texas. Flat. Dry. No trees. Really no signs of life. Really long periods of time with no gas stations. There are a lot of Dairy Queens and Subways along this stretch of highway 40, but that’s about it. Thankfully in New Mexico the terrain got a little more variant. We drove a lot this day, and finally landed in Flagstaff, AZ at Twin Navajo Casino where we mingled with the natives and got showed up by an old lady who sat down at the table as we were on our way to bed at 9PM.
Arizona in general was surprisingly beautiful. Full of mountains and hills, and ancient looking landmasses. We left Flagstaff to head to Sedona. We had driven so purposefully the first two days of the trip so that we could have this day in Sedona, and an extended weekend in San Diego with a our sweet friend, and fellow blogger, Audrey Blank. We planned to spend the day hiking in Sedona, seeing the red rocks and exploring. Driving through the mountains from Flagstaff to Cathedral Rock, our hiking point, was breathtaking.
Cathedral Rock is one of the steeper trails in the Red Rocks, more difficult, but worth the view. It honestly felt like we were rock climbing rather than hiking a trail. As soon as we got out of the car outside of Cathedral Rock trailhead, it started raining. Raining. In the desert. I’m not saying it doesn’t rain in the desert, but I’ve done my research and the rain usually happens in the summer months. We were talking to the locals and they were all telling us how excited they were for the rain. Being a Georgia native, where our rain fall each year is equivalent to that of Seattle (seriously Georgia is basically a tropical rain forest) this concept was a little funny (from just a week in L.A., now I understand- this place is dry). So we were basically walking straight up a giant, smooth rock, in the rain.
We got about half way up and all of the other hikers started going back down, not wanting to slip on the side of the rock in the rain and fall. Mary and I trekked on.
When we got to the top of Cathedral Rock the views were breath taking. I’m sure we got a view of that place that most people don’t. The rain clouds rolling off the rocks that look like mountains exuded quiet, yet awesome beauty, I don’t know why but I was just elated the entire time that we got to experience this place in the rain, the way few others had.
I’ve kind of seen the last season of my life as my own personal Exodus. The long, arduous, process that God has lead me through in order to find freedom, in order to completely trust Him, and have complete faith in Him. My life had felt like a desert, with me just trekking after Him, sometimes hopelessly but still following Him. Sometimes disheartened, and sometimes strong – but at all times just following after Him because He was my only way through the desert. Sometimes I would find a little oasis, a few months of things being easier and “prettier”. Isaiah has been a book in the bible that so clearly speaks to me. When I read Isaiah sometimes I literally feel like the Lord is speaking direct promises over me. Isaiah talks a lot about God turning desert waste lands into streams, and turning dry valleys into pools. To me being in the desert and getting this rain was like God tangibly confirming His promises to me.
I don’t feel like I’m in the desert anymore.
This morning at my first LA Church service the pastor was saying a prayer over “broken people” and in my mind that didn’t apply to me. Yes, I’ve been broken, I’m sinful, and I have a lot to work on. But I don’t feel broken and straggling anymore, whereas normally “broken” would’ve directly applied to me. I don’t feel delicate like a porcelain doll ready to shatter. Or a porcelain doll that has been shattered over and over that keeps getting glued back together but never really fixed. I feel like I’m on the other side of the desert. I am standing in freedom. There isn’t this giant weight trampling me. I’m walking in something new.
I love how He finds subtle ways to speak to us. Sometimes we miss it. He is so intentional, but too many times I shrug things off as coincidence, or chance. Not this time. God gave me rain in the desert, and we couldn’t stop laughing.