WARNING: This post is long (1,085 words) and filled with blurry pictures.
The sun is gently rising on Iowa corn fields that are intermittently dotted with idyllic barns and old white-steepled churches. I’m heading east with my husband in our motorhome, trying to make Allentown, PA by Friday. We press on and drive hard. I tried to prepare myself weeks ago, You won’t have time for camera stops! I heard myself tell friends, “I’m looking forward to the trip but I know it’s going to be difficult to miss the photo ops along the way.” I had no idea how difficult it would be.
Now that I’m witnessing these indescribably beautiful subjects, framed in vast landscapes and painted in perfect light, I’m irritated. I’m in a photographer’s paradise and I cannot stop to take one single picture. Even if we had the time to pull over, there’s no shoulder to pull over onto. Road construction forces us to share a two-lane westbound interstate. Stopping would be suicide. I feel mad roiling up inside me and I don’t like it.
The song lyrics, We’ll never pass this way again keep coming to mind and I feel jilted somehow. I’m a natural born pollinator. I like to touch things, even with my camera. I rarely get out of Washington state and now that I have I am forced to view this great country of ours through bug splattered windows.
I don’t ask my husband to stop but I want to. Instead, I frame shots from the passenger window and take careful aim at breathtaking landscapes with blurry foregrounds. The highway vibrates my camera but I hold my breath and steady my grip. Just as I’m about to snap the shutter an errant billboard sneaks in and photobombs my shot. I’m astonished at my low frustration threshold. I actually want to cuss.
I set my camera aside and matter-of-factly announce to my husband, “I’m not going to try this anymore. It’s just too frustrating.” I want to close my eyes until we reach Allentown. But three-tenths of a mile later some breathtaking site comes into view and my heart jumps. Once again I leap from my seat in an anxious rush, hobble-sprint to the back window, lean my elbows on the kitchen faucet, take aim and then…a windbreak of trees abruptly blocks my perfect shot. The huge white barn and old farmhouse sitting poised on a small green knoll in the middle of a golden cornfield so huge it could be its own country slowly fades into the horizon.
I adjust my big girl panties, summon maturity and return to my timeout chair. I silently determine to stop torturing myself and rejoin the audiobook we were enjoying before I was willing to risk life and limb for that beautiful barn with its four copper-topped cupolas. But I apparently don’t mind myself very well. I scan both sides of the freeway like a thirsty traveler in search of water. Not more than ten minutes later, I leap from my chair and spin like a dog chasing his tail. It’s brutal.
It’s not enough to capture these sublime images in my mind’s eye. I much prefer to capture them with pixels I can record and share.
Again my iron resolve turns to mush and I strip off my seatbelt, hoist myself over the center console, grab my camera, stagger down the moving aisle, bruise my hip on the table, bang into the bathroom door and land cockeyed on the couch. Precious seconds pass while I make my way to that precariously framed split-second shot. I’m hopeful. I’m steady. And then…halfway into my click, the big red semi behind us decides to pull into the passing lane and gobble my shot like Pac Man on 5 Hour Energy Drink.
I start crying. I’ve been waging this futile battle over lost art all the way through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and now Wisconsin.
I’m not just upset about the missed shots, I’m upset that I’m so upset. I literally want to throw a childish fit, a that’s-not-fair kind of fit.
This time I return to my seat without hiding my immaturity. “I can’t believe how upset this is making me,” I tell my husband. “I should just close my eyes until we reach Allentown.” I sulk, sniffle, and then blow my nose and turn my face away from him to attempt lofty prayer. “LORD, what is my problem?”
I sighed deeply, trying to decide if I wanted to expose my underbelly and risk a cavalier and definitely masculine response to my bruised but distinctly feminine and perhaps childish heart.
I resigned. My lips parted. When I had finished dislodging my soul-lump the real source of my frustration was identified and somehow I felt better.
I had put in a try-hard week; tried hard to handle incredibly sad news with the vim and vigor of a woman whose heart trusts fully in Jesus. And then I tried hard to bravely accept the shattering of a family dream and humbly determine to love the broken hearts that I cannot mend. I also worked long hours trying hard to serve women in ministry but when launch day for our event arrived I let stress break through my countenance. It drew a corrective word and a prayer circle aimed at me—I felt. It seems while I’m learning to dance with joy in spite of sorrow, to live fully where I’m at and to stand firm against the father of lies, I’m falling down more than I’m moving forward.
Try-harding leaves a person weary and frustrated, like boxing the wind the bible says.
We pull off at a rest stop to stretch and notice a small white chapel just beyond the restrooms. Camera in hand, we walk over and step inside the mini-church. I tease my husband and tell him I feel like collecting the offering. Sunlight peers through the side window and illuminates the short pews. At the front altar, a tattered spiral notebook turned visitor registration book is splayed beside a bible opened to the 23rd Psalm.
And there it is. Written in childish scrawl at the top of the page was the picture I really needed to frame.
Gratitude was the picture I had missed along the way. This gratitude journal was written by travelers who stopped along the road of life and said, Thank you, LORD!
Gratitude. It’s what lets us walk out this faith life with a fresh grace. Grace for people and situations that grind on our nerves…and even grace for ourselves.