The Spiritual Discipline of Expecting Delays and Great Scenery

Because of the invisible cord that ties writing to life, it is with some trepidation I acknowledge that my anticipated writing topics for the coming months center around a theme which can be summarized by a road sign, especially a road sign in a construction zone bearing this kind of verbiage: Expect delays and great scenery.Expect Delays and Great Scenery

Oh, I’m all about the scenery.  I’m just not fond of delays. I don’t want to wait. For anything.

That the roads we wander will need repair is a given. That there will be delays, an inconvenient fact. That they will occur at the nearly the worst possible time seems to follow some universal law. To plant an expectation of great scenery takes a leap of greater optimism.

Expectations almost always disappoint.

Except that we tend to find what we look for. Whether we gaze out the window for the view or at the clock to measure wasted time, that’s what we’ll see.

Here in Iowa, our open roads and flat terrain allow travelers through construction zones to slow down more often than stop. When it does require a full stop, it’s usually short, governed by a traffic light rather than a pilot car. Those are more common to the mountains, where the roads are winding, the stops long, and patience is not simply a virtue—it’s a survival skill.

When my husband and I came upon this sign along the road to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, it wasn’t hard for me to believe. We were already in the mountains. The Tetons are known for being photogenic. I already expected great scenery. I just wasn’t interested in a delay.

Whether I’m on the road to Yellowstone and the Tetons or a highway in the heartland, I believe that there’s something to see, that it’s worth paying attention to the landscape of our lives, that there is, as Matthew Henry wrote, “a great deal of good to be learned from what we see every day.” All this I believe, but I forget because I am in too much of a hurry to stop and remember.

Hurry focuses on tasks instead of people. On outcomes over processes. On destinations and not the journey. It leaves little room for the slow unfurling of all the good to be found along the way.

Delay interrupts hurry.

On the same trip that we saw the sign, J and I drove into Yellowstone from the Tetons, arriving later than we had planned. We had only one task to complete that day, but it was an important one: find a campsite, something more easily accomplished early in the day than late. J is more easy-going than I. The need to get to the campground weighed more heavily on me than on him. I was in a hurry.

Within a few miles of the campground, we found ourselves in a long line of stationary vehicles. It didn’t have the look of a typical Yellowstone bear-induced traffic jam, but we couldn’t see the source of the blockage. We had no idea what the holdup was. We didn’t know how long we would be sitting there, waiting. After a while, J suggested we turn around and have dinner at a small picnic area we’d passed a few miles back.

The promised delay had materialized, interfering with my rush to get to the campground and procure our campsite. I was torn. We could sit and wait for the traffic to move while I watched the clock, tormenting myself with each moment that passed, or we could wait by the water in the woods, enjoying the scenery we’d driven across the country to see. The truth was, I wanted to go where I wanted to go and do what I needed to do. And I wanted to do it now, not later.

I wasn’t interested in the scenery.

Tree in the Bluff Yellowstone Lake

In the end, we turned around. After we lugged our Coleman stove and a cooler full of food to a table on a bluff overlooking Yellowstone Lake, I prepared our meal to the soundtrack of waves hitting the shore and J moved on to his natural habitat: the rocks above the water. And an hour later, when the snarled traffic finally loosened, freeing vehicles to whiz by, we lingered in our solitary place among the pines long after our leisurely dinner was done. The delay had dissolved my habitual hurry and created space to see beyond the pressure of the clock, to enter fully into the moment rather than simply passing through.

It seems we are always waiting for something. And while I relish good scenery, I’m more comfortable with hustle, with arriving where I want to be according to my own  itinerary.

Maybe that’s precisely why we need delays: there are unexpected things to see and do and learn that don’t fit into the plan. The expectation of delays and great scenery predisposes us to a willingness to wait, to submit to a timetable not of our own creation, to believe there are purposes and treasures in the long pauses of life. Delays can free us from the crushing weight of tasks and outcomes and arrivals, creating space for us to slow down and lift our eyes to the world around us and the God who gives us life and breath and the ability to move at any speed—whether it’s comfortable or not.

And you, Fellow Traveler? Because we are almost always waiting, almost always in the midst of some delay on life’s road, let me ask this: Do you look for the scenery or do you seek the fastest way through? What would it look like for you to pause and embrace the inevitable delays the coming year will bring?

 

 

Sharing stories with the writers at:

Faith on Fire | lylidunbar.com


lylidunbar.com

#FaithOnFire

Because Sometimes We Forget

Once upon a time I looked at the empty picnic tables at interstate rest areas  and wondered Who uses those?  I never saw them in use and our stops were always quick and utilitarian.

Then J and I had kids.

Each of our three children was less than a year before we carted them off on their first thousand-mile-one-way road trip. With the combination of little ones and that kind of mileage, I learned to see rest areas with new eyes.

Beyond the continual requests for potty breaks, our kids needed to move, to get the wiggles out. At rest areas they ran. Down the sidewalks. Over the grass. On the playground equipment.

Now they’re growing up. They’re happy to read or sleep in the car. But they’re still willing to stop and wander through a rest area.

Some rest areas are efficient affairs, with straight sidewalks, grey cement picnic pads, and a pet exercise area off to one side. Others are wooded, wound about with sun-dappled paths that curve through the trees. It’s here where we’ll stroll down a shady sidewalk for a much-needed stretch when we find ourselves somewhere between where we’ve been and where we want to be.

Sometimes we want to be home, to sleep in our own beds, to return to the rhythm of the familiar. Other times we want to get on with the adventure, to arrive somewhere magnificent, to be done with the long drive already. Whether the destination is mundane or momentous, we still need to rest.

Rest Area

Because the kids are beyond the stage of potty-breaks and wiggles, it’s easy to forget that we all still need a break from the car. Because they’re growing up, we’re continually finding ourselves somewhere between where we’ve been and where we want to be. And because none of them are in the single digits anymore, it’s easy to ignore the fact that every one of us still needs occasional respite from life’s road.

Without regular naps or early bedtimes to anchor the rhythms of life, we  got a little lazy. Not lazy as in all we lounged around and eat bonbons, but lazy as in we ceased to pay attention, quit tending to important things. We ignored the reality that we all need pauses, pauses that allow for more than minimal sleep and sustenance. We need the kind that make space for conversation and connection, for worship, for the strengthening of the body, refreshment of the soul, and reorganization of the heart and the mind.

Stopping isn’t natural for me. It’s something I’m learning because I believe in the importance of the things that don’t happen when the hustle of life outstrips the pace of the heart. And it’s the heart–and those things near to it–that suffer first when I forget about rest.

Outdoors, I notice sunny spots and inviting paths that remind me to remember what’s important and to pause, to stop if necessary. I’m learning to look for those same places within the moments that make up my days and the days that make up my life, because it’s there I most need the reminder to pause, to stop if that is what’s called for, to embrace and be fully present in those moments–whether it’s the night’s rest or the morning’s breakfast, worship or conversation.

IMG_4121

Sunny spots and inviting paths are less obvious in the moments and days of life than they are outdoors. Sometimes they come disguised as Will you play a game with me? from a little one or an unconvincing Okay to the standard How are you today? asked of a friendOther times they appear as a sick child or post-operative parent. And still others it’s a weary look in my child’s eyes or the nagging fatigue in my soul.

Even short pauses don’t always come easily. In fact, they sometimes come at a cost. Sometimes they cost me my time. Other times they cost me pride.

Rest areas remind of my mortality, that–no matter how my life and lists tempt me to believe otherwise–I’m not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. I am human, limited and fallible, in need of grace and mercy, and grateful that, in rest, I learn to receive.

And you? What reminds you that you need to rest?


Something to think about: Shelly Miller is a writer who encourages me to remember the importance of rest, specifically Sabbath rest. She writes this:  …Sabbath isn’t about resting so I can be more productive. It isn’t about me at all.  And this: Sabbath is a weekly inward commute from a loud world to a still small voice; a rhythm of familiar conversation in a language that speaks deeply of belonging. It is a reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

The sad reality is that I so much like things to be about me. But slowly, slowly, I am learning about the connections between rest and God’s grace and mercy and that it isn’t about what I bring to the table at all. If you’d like to read more of what she has to say, click on over here or on the link above.

Sharing Because Sometimes We Forget at Small Wonders.

Influenced By the One That Came Before

InfluencedbytheoneswhichcamebeforeSummer’s green is wearing thin. Before long, it will give way to the colors of autumn.

Some years, summer’s heat and its green march across the lawn arrive with a suddenness that suggest we’ve gone straight from winter to summer with no stop for spring. This doesn’t happen with autumn. Thanks to the turning of the leaves when summer fades to fall, it’s a transition impossible to miss.

aspen

Even though the leaves turn every year, even though it’s impossible to miss, it doesn’t always look the same.

Some seasons the trees along the roads and in the woods wear a regal assortment of gold, russet, and scarlet, intense pigments as invigorating as the crisp autumn air. Other years they cloak themselves in a faded array of the matronly hues of serviceable cloth.

The difference between the two lies in the weather.

During the growing season, the chlorophyll that colors the leaves green is constantly replenished by a transaction between sun and tree. As fall ushers in short days, a weak spot forms between the branch and the leaf. This weak spot, known as the abscission layer, prevents any exchange between the leaf and the tree. Chlorophyll restoration ceases and the leaves lose their green color.

The most vibrant displays result from a summer of abundant rain followed by an autumn of dry, sunny days with cool, frost-free nights. When low temperatures arrive after the abscission layer develops, it hastens the loss of chlorophyll and causes fall’s orange and  yellows to arrive early.  At the same time, the brilliant days and chilly nights enhance the reds and purples which lend autumn its splendor.

After a dry growing season, trees shed their leaves prematurely. They drift to the ground before decreasing daylight diminishes the production of the chlorophyll mask and fall’s yellow and orange are revealed by the fading green. An untimely freeze hinders the leaf’s ability to make the intense red and purple pigments that give the forest vista depth.

The colors of autumn are influenced by the season which came before.

Yellowstone 2011 175Sometimes, during a stretch of difficult days, a friend will tell me, or I will tell her, or we’ll tell one another, “It’s a season,” and look forward to the day it will pass and the situation will be different.  But when it gives way, when whatever has been coloring life fades and the new season is revealed, it doesn’t seem quite right. It lacks some brilliance. It isn’t as vibrant as expected.

I wonder if, like the colors of the leaves, our seasons are influenced by the ones which came before.

Perhaps there was a drought of sleep, money, or friendship. Or a deluge of opportunities and obligations. Or the chill of hardship, disease, or death. Or maybe just  too much cloud cover for too long.

It takes time for the effects of a such seasons to pass, time for the rain to penetrate the parched soil of our lives or the flood of too much to recede, time to feel the warmth and brightness of the sun on heart and mind, body and soul.

It takes time and I find it hard to wait. Still, it’s worth it, to count on the nature of seasons, to believe that a new one is one the way, to remember that as one color draws back another will be revealed, and that, while it might not be at all what I expected, there is a time for everything. Every single thing.

For everything there is a season

Sharing this week at  Small Wonders and Thought Provoking Thursday.

Because

Because the things of earth end, because beginnings arrive disguised as endings, because this week brings both to our family in the form of college–a repost.

Natural Bridge Trail Yellowstone National Park
Natural Bridge Trail
Yellowstone National Park

Every summer the cicadas sing their song. Every summer it starts too soon. And every summer it makes me sad.

It made sense when I was young. The cicada’s song signaled school’s imminent return. I enjoyed school, so maybe it didn’t make sense, but as a child, it was the best I could come up with. I dreaded the inevitability of its lonely refrain vibrating through summer’s evening air. My parents held a different opinion. They called it beautiful.

Age has allowed me to agree. I can hear a loveliness in the cicada’s song because I know now it was never what I was walking toward that made me sad; it what I was walking away from. School was good but was home was better. More time at school meant less time with my mom and dad and brother, less time in books, less time with my grandparents, less time to be free.

Sometimes I hear the cicadas singing over my children’s lives and feel the same hollow sadness I did in childhood. I heard it as the newborn became a baby and the baby grew into a toddler who wandered out into the living room one day as a child, soft baby fat having disappeared in the night. I heard it when they stepped onto the school bus, the soccer field, and the stage. I hear it now as I watch my seventeen-year-old-hardly-a-boy-anymore do his seventeen-year-old stuff.

When he was three a thunderstorm brought down a tree branch in our front yard. The next morning, he put on his tool-belt, climbed into the branches and went to work with his plastic axe. When he was nine our neighbor’s treetop landed in our yard and he was there immediately, checking it out and absorbing the talk about what would happen next. At seventeen he helps provide the wood our family needs to be warm through the winter. His plastic axe is gone, replaced by tools with sharp edges and motors.

He’s building a trebuchet this summer, perhaps the last in a series of many. This is a big one, with a metal frame, and this is his second summer on it. I want desperately for him to have time to play in his way, but he’s growing up and time a luxury. He doesn’t seem to mind. I don’t think he hears the song.

The cicadas aren’t at fault. They are message bearers only. The thing is, I’m not ready for him to go. The time is so close and their song is so loud and sometimes I don’t want to hear it. The cicada’s song has its own rhythm, relenting occasionally and silencing itself long enough for his father and I to enjoy the boy he is even as it reveals the man he is becoming.

I know it’s not what he’s walking toward that makes me sad. It’s what he’s walking away from. Perhaps with a little more silence I can make peace with their song.

And you? Are you facing an ending or a beginning today?foreverythingthereisaseason

Sharing Because at Small Wonders and Thought Provoking Thursday.

It Changes Everything

 

20150716_210530The pontoon pulled away from the dock and turned toward the open water where we drifted past brown and pastel cabins tucked into the trees along the shore. Under the influence of the overcast day, that was all there was to see. The sky, typically the star of our evening cruise, offered nothing but dismal grey gruel. Gloomy clouds stacked up overhead, familiar companions for some part of every day of that week.

We were grateful the weather allowed us to be out at all. Between downpours and thunderstorms, electricity-eradicating straight line winds and near-misses with tornadoes, it had been a weird weather week.

Out on the lake,  with its ducks and herons and loons, its reed beds and lily pads, we floated along, satisfied with the knowledge that there were fish below the surface–fish that some of our party hoped to catch the next morning. When my young nephew took the helm, he brought us alongside an island with a fawn on the shore. We watched until it turned and bounded a few feet inland. There, hidden behind a bush, stood its mother. We’d been so busy watching the fawn that we hadn’t noticed her.

Content with our nature sighting on this grey evening and aware that to make it home before that awful hour when the mosquitoes came out en force, my nephew accelerated and turned us toward home.

That’s when we noticed the sky.

Blues and pinks haloed a molten glow, spreading from one side of the sky to the other. Behind us and to both sides the day remained as dingy as when we’d set off, but before us it was vivid and lovely and full of life.

Perspective, I remembered again, changes everything. The fruit of the setting sun had been there and we hadn’t even noticed it. It was behind us as we lamented the grey we cruised into. It was above us as we observed the fawn and the doe.

We didn’t see it because we didn’t look.

Sometimes I don’t see things because I don’t pay attention. Sometimes it’s because I’m looking the wrong direction. Sometimes it’s because they’re still out of my range of vision. What I fail to remember that just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

When I forget this, I lament life’s difficulties the way I despaired the sky.

Sometimes, though, when things aren’t going the way I wish they would, I remember. I remember that there is a time for everything, that almost everything changes, and that the changes begin long before I ever see them.

Because He’s always at work. 

When the woods are thick and the way is uncertain, He’s at work. When life is dry and the soul is parched, He’s at work. He’s always at work.

The way will clear and the river will flow. Sometimes I remember this first, and I am grateful.

Sharing It Changes Everything at  Thought Provoking Thursday and Small Wonders.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19

Why Summer Matters

A tiny ball of feline fluff has taken up residence in our garage. She moved in at the invitation of our youngest, herself a petite bundle of boundless energy. Our girlie made the little grey cat a bed, set up a feeding station, and installed a litter box, and then she set up a pup tent for herself. For two weeks she slept in a sleeping bag on a concrete floor because right now her energy is focused on waiting for the arrival of the summer’s kittens.

Kittens don’t always arrive in the long glory days of summer. Sometimes they’re born in September and in September there would be no sleeping on the concrete floor. In July, though, she can afford a few fitful nights. She can sleep late because summer, with its long, school-free days offers up time to her–and to us–as a gift.haybales

September’s song tells us that there’s too much going on, too much need to wake early, ready for school, for dance, for whatever the calendar says is next. Summer sings a different melody, one of space, of simple pleasures, of growth. While it’s a different song, it isn’t always easy.

It takes an effort to, as Emily Freeman says, take the changes of the seasons and apply them to our lives.

Sometimes it seems easier declare an immediate “no” to tents in the garage and  “later” to twilight walks with the family and impromptu conversations on our rock wall with my husband. Sometimes it seems more important to keep on doing All The Usual Things and just try to balance all the summer extras on top. And sometimes, when the end comes–whether it’s the end of summer or a little one’s childhood, I wonder why I feel as though I missed it. Or lost it. Or wasted it.

Summer’s not gone. It’s still offering up long days, warm nights, time in a different form. We can still take the changes of summer and apply them to life, to today and tomorrow.

Why does summer matter to you?

For everything there is a season

Sharing Why Summer Matters at Small Wonders and Thought Provoking Thursday.

The Wonder of Winter

Chico Candle There is a time for everything.

I know this. I believe it. The thing is, when a sliver of life overwhelms me, I forget it.

I tend to operate on the assumption that whatever is going on in my life–good or bad, joy or sorrow–will last forever. The seasons, especially as they change, remind me that this is not true. Seasons give me hope. They prompt me to take stock and be grateful. These are the silver linings, the small wonders, the little comforts that have contributed to my sanity in this season of cold, of short days and long nights.

  1. Snow. Just snow. It makes it so much easier to endure the cold.
  2. Darkness. A blanket of comfort.
  3. The fox who regularly treks across our frozen pond, occasionally diving below the snow.
  4. Wood burning in our stove. (And the men who provide it.)
  5. Indoor hot dog and marshmallow roasts. Just for fun.
  6. Sunshine. Especially after long strings of grey and gloomy days.
  7. Snow days. Every single one of them. They were gifts of unexpected time, even–or maybe especially–the ones that pried my grasping fingers off of the Very Important Things that the snow interrupted.
  8. Bananagrams. We play after lunch, after dinner, or when it just seems like a good idea to circle the wagons for a few minutes of lighthearted together time.
  9. Homemade marshmallows. This recipe is simple and delicious. Also, molten when roasted: consume with care.
  10. Crockpot Chicken Wild Rice Soup. So much more manageable to make a quick roux at dinner-time than to begin anything at that weary time of day.
  11. Birdsong. I heard it on Sunday morning, an unmistakable reminder that spring will come.

What comforts or wonders or silver linings has winter brought your way?

For everything there is a season

Sharing this week with the writers at Small Wonders and Thought Provoking Thursday.

On Breaking Trail

IMG_1428
We pulled into the gravel parking lot at the base of Bunsen Peak, piled out, grabbed day packs and water from the back of the vehicle, and set off. Dust had barely begun to accumulate around our ankles when we saw him: a lone bison, a bull, just twenty-five feet off the trail.

Someone was going to have to change trajectory and it was going to be us–my husband, our children, and me.

First, because it’s the rules. The park service has clear regulations about how close visitors can get to animals: Approaching on foot within 100 yards of bears or wolves or within 25 yards of other wildlife is prohibited. It’s up to the humans to keep the distance. Second, because J and I once visited with a ranger who had worked in close proximity with grizzlies in Denali National Park who told us that she found the bison’s irritable and unpredictable nature to be more dangerous than that of the bear.

So we stepped off the narrow dirt path and began to pick our way through the tangled grass and sage of the hillside. It was hard. It was slow going. And because I was dressed to walk down the trail and not to break it, it sliced up my shins. I don’t like breaking trail.

Apparently bison prefer not to, either–at least in winter.

IMG_1280

That’s just opinion, formed after sharing the groomed road with bison after bison. We weren’t on foot that day; we were on a snowmobile. The twenty-five yard rule didn’t seem to apply, but even passing them on the furthest available centimeter of road frightened me. They trotted down the groomed lane–sometimes toward us, sometimes beside us–their unsettled eyes level with mine.

If one decided–and they occasionally do–that they’ve had enough of the pesky, noisy machines that invade their space, their thirty-five miles-per-hour charge was faster than we could weave our way through the small herds that spread across the road.  The air and my snowmobile suit provided no armor against a horned and angry thousand pound female or two thousand pound male.

100_1879

Bison are made for winter. They are well insulated against the elements. Their shiver response, according to the snow-coach driver who took us from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful last winter, begins–begins–at forty degrees below zero. Their massive heads work like a bucket at the end of a crane, shoving deep and often crusted snow away to expose last year’s grass underneath.

Last year’s grass.

Not a lot of nutrition there. Spring finds them thin and bony, their fat stores depleted. About ten out of every one hundred will die.

Even though they’re made for the rigors of winter, it’s a hard life.

In her book, Yellowstone Has Teeth, Marjane Ambler writes that in the years after the park service began grooming Yellowstone’s roads for snow machine travel, the bison herd grew from two to three thousand. Perhaps not continually breaking trail has its advantages. Walking from one feeding area to another over a road expends far fewer calories than wading through deep snow.

We’re continually breaking trail in our lives because something is always changing. And while we may not be sporting pollen smeared cuts on our legs or wading, hip deep, through crusted-over snow in search of something inadequate to fill the gnawing hunger in our bellies, we’re constantly moving along a section of road we’ve never taken before.

It’s hard. It’s slow going. And it wreaks a little havoc.

No wonder we’re worn.

At our house we’ve been away from the ease of the established trail for awhile now. Even though breaking a new one is hard, and progress is slow, and it wreaks all kinds of havoc with the emotions–it’s how we get from here to there, from where we are to where we’re going. We are not alone. Even when we’re weary.

No matter if you are on an established trail or finding your way through a brambly hillside, no matter if you are in an effortless summer or under a deep winter, even if you are stumbling through the dark over an unknown terrain, you are not alone.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

 

IMG_1313

 

 

 

 

 

Roads in Transition, Part 2

haveyoubeenaskingOn December 12 the National Park Service posted a news release to inform the public that Yellowstone’s interior roads would open on December 15, just as predicted.

Yellowstone’s fall and winter travelers knew when the road crews would start to let the snow build, when they’d get dangerous, and when they’d be safe for snow machines.

They knew.

Sometimes I wish I knew. You know, about changes, about transitions. About the things I’m waiting for and the ones I’m dreading. I imagine that a little more information would help me hang on. Often, a more accurate assessment would be that I desperately crave more information because, well, because I want to know. Just a little more.

Just a little more information. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Maybe.

But maybe I know enough. Maybe we know enough.

We know that our little ones grow older before our eyes. We can’t miss our body’s intermittent reminders that we’re doing the same thing. We see our children go through rough patches just as we did, and we know that, like our parents before us, we’ll tread some deep water.

Advanced notice doesn’t seem to help. Knowing there’s a baby on the way or the nest is about to empty doesn’t make it easy.

We live lives of constant fluctuation. Change lurks somewhere around the bend. Either the road will begin to clear or begin to get rough, at least until the next transition brings more change.

We also know that there is only One who never changes.

Every January these words from Oswald Chambers turn me from what I want to know to what I need to know: Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is. 

And that’s enough. All the rest? That’s too much to handle.

Snowshoesun

Read part 1 of Roads In Transition here.

Sharing Roads In Transition, Part 2 at  Unforced Rhythms and Thought Provoking Thursday

Roads in Transition

IMG_1511The sun dawned in the steely sky and peeked through trees veiled by the falling snow. It had begun the night before and lingered, fine and heavy, through the day. “It’s slick,” my son told me when he returned from his mid-day Calc class. I must have looked concerned, because he amended his statement. “The roads were fine. It’s the parking lot that was bad.”

Of course the roads were in better shape than the parking lot—the DOT turns the crews loose before the first flake hits the ground. They work to keep the roads neat and tidy, safe surfaces for us to navigate between where we are and where we need to be. Their trucks and plows spread through the area with sand, salt, and blades.

The forecast called for snow in Yellowstone that same day, but there no one bothered much about the roads.

It wasn’t because of a strike. It wasn’t because of a government shutdown. It was because–with the exception of the fifty-two mile stretch of road between the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana and the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City–Yellowstone’s roads are accessible only by snow machine during the winter.

IMG_1485

In spring and summer and the early months of fall, Yellowstone’s roads are just roads. They have their seasonal dangers—potholes the size of small cars, thermal mist which ices the surface on cold nights, wildlife lallygagging just around the bend—but they are roads, meant for us to drive. We belong there.

During the winter they consist of snow, groomed smooth enough by the same machines that tend to downhill ski slopes, their edges marked by tall orange stakes rather than the familiar white line. We can belong there, too, on snowmobiles or in Suburbans retrofitted with treads.

But for a few weeks in between they are roads in transition.

They’re messy. They’re dangerous. And they’re fit for neither tires nor treads.

Some of the people who live and work in Yellowstone’s interior drive them anyway—to the grocery store, to visit a friend, to their winter’s work assignment. Park employees tell tales of white-knuckled travels over slippery, snowy roads. It’s what their life requires while they wait for the snow to build up so that groomers can carve out a smooth surface for them to get from where they are to where they need to be.

coyoteonthe road

Some of ours are roads in transition.

Stretches are messy. Sections are dangerous. And sometimes our vehicle feels like no match for the way ahead.

Our kids get older and what once worked suddenly is a cumbersome, clunky way that doesn’t get the job done. Our marriages reshape themselves just as we do, and so do our friendships. Our jobs change, and sometimes even the place where our key fits the lock.

In the midst of it all, we keep going. We make our way over roads that are messy and dangerous, in vehicles that feel like no match for the terrain. We wait for the day when it will smooth into a neat and tidy surface, one that feels safe to navigate–even if only for a little while. It’s the process life requires and the way it gives for us to get from where we are to where we need to be.

And while we wait, beautiful encouragement from a Psalm of David: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

No matter the condition of the road.

DSC00216

Sharing stories at Thought Provoking Thursday and Unforced Rhythms.