It is hot.
Sweat running down the middle of your back,
under your breasts, around your waist hot.
As usual, you have over-packed.
Lugging heavy bags in and out of a car in this heat is sweaty work,
and for the zillionth time, you are embarrassed
by your own inability to make wise and concise decisions in regard to wardrobe.
The temperature is nearing 100 as you pull away from your city hotel,
headed out into the west Texas countryside.
Maps are spread out, navigating instructions offered as needed.
Eventually you are headed toward a canyon,
a place you have never been and cannot quite picture,
despite a plethora of photographs online.
But before you arrive,
your traveling companion -
who is basically along for the ride on this one -
wants to check out some historical sites.
Approximately 120 miles out of the way, all tolled.
Because this is a companion you love and have lived with for over 4 decades,
and because his idea is a good one, you acquiesce.
And the journey begins.
The land is parched.
Not enough rain for a good long time now.
Live oaks begin to dot the landscape as the detritus of urban life
disappears into the rear view mirror.
The sky seems larger, and the clouds are roiling and boiling across it -
sometimes forming huge thunderheads,
sometimes spreading themselves into feathery strips, light as gossamer.
The turn-off from the throughway comes sooner than you expect
and you head off to the north a bit,
looking for a town with a strange name for Texas - Fredricksburg.
And when you find it,
there are lots and lots of other German names sprinkled everywhere you look:
Finally, you see the sign you’re hunting -
Lyndon B. Johnson Historic Park -
and you make a quick left onto a narrow road.
Some who analyze such things have said
that it is impossible to understand the presidency of LBJ
without visiting the ranch, the country where he lived,
the country that he loved.
So, you have come.
Do you understand?
A little better perhaps
You see his birthplace,
his first one-room school,
his grandparents’ home,
the show-barn where he loved to ride, and lasso cattle,
the hangar where the small shuttle plane still sits (officially, always Air Force One), ready to take the President wherever he needs to go.
And you get to tour the Ranch House, only open to the public for the last 3 years.
And here, in this house, in this home - you get a feel for the man,for his wife, for the life they loved here.
No photographs are allowed inside the house -
a place of warmth and graciousness despite its 8500 square feet.
It feels like a home for ordinary folk, warm and welcoming.
A place where real people lived and fought
and made decisions and learned about life.
LBJ died here, only 64 years old.
But so much life in those years, so much of our story as Americans.
The hideous war in Vietnam.
The miracle of the Civil Rights Act.
A look at the clock confirms that you will be late for this place in the canyon,
with 90 minutes more driving to do.
And the tension builds within.
Patience grows short.
Do you need gas? Do you not need gas?
Are you on the best route? Should you try this way?
The thunderheads gather overhead, as well as inside your spirit,
dropping their load of long-awaited moisture all over the road ahead.
And the temperature drops right along with it.
Space to breathe.
And then it hits you.
This feeling - this tenseness inside,
this knot growing in your belly,
this crazy, hyper-critical thinking -
this is very familiar.
It happens every time you’re nearing something new,
somewhere things are ‘expected’ - at least in your own mind.
You wonder if you will fit,
if others will notice you,
listen to you,
It’s the treacherous, life-robbing cycle of fear, that’s what it is.
The stuff that crowds out the wonder,
the thick, syrupy, invasive thief of all that is good and holy.
And the only antidote you know is this one: love.
The only one.
So you silently begin the Jesus prayer,
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Big breath in.
Big breath out.
More love, Lord. More love.
Love for this man who patiently drives you across this desert land.
Love for this land,
this view of big sky and big valleys,
of rolling hills and rocky crags.
Love for this adventure, this opportunity, this challenge.
Love for you, Lord.
And the trust that can only be grown in that soil.
Trust that reminds you, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’
to be continued… click here to read the follow-up.
Joining with LL Barkat at SeedlingsinStone for her weekly invitation:
3 additional photos which speak to the quiet beauty of this space