[If you just want to look at the pictures and would prefer an abbreviated version of this story, here it is: I drove longer than I needed to, I saw a pretty sunset, there was a full moon, I was glad. The end.
Or, you can read the six-word story version: Beautiful sunset. Full moon. Happy heart.
And finally, if you have the time, you might enjoy the more Janet-like version in 1850 words or less. Okay, not less. 1850 words exactly. About a sunset. That version is below ;)]
I don't like to drive. I especially don't like to drive at night.
The first fact is less not liking the act of driving and more the not liking of the time it takes.
The second fact is simply because I'm getting old.
Nighttime driving is difficult for me—my eyes and brain don't work quite right and the bright lights affect my response time and I can easily become disoriented. It's a split second, but when you are operating a motor vehicle, a split second can make the difference between life and death.
So, I don't drive much at night. But sometimes, it's a necessity.
Last month, Alaina (our new 14 year old!) and Caleb, had a "teen night" to attend. Our homeschool community has one of these almost every month, with the hosting homes rotating according to
a schedule whichever kids can convince their parents first. I adore our children's friends and I adore their parents. All of them. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to do life with. I do have one issue with them, though—everyone lives far away from each other. The whole "let's just buy a big piece of land and live in a commune" idea hasn't taken off yet. Until it does, doing life together means a lot of driving. On this particular night, the home was almost an hour away. And, as my mother would say, to add insult to injury, I was responsible for Alaina and Caleb's ride home at 11:00pm—far past my bedtime.
And the drive was worse than expected. It was still light out, but that did not work in my favor. I now know why I remember hearing someone say, "If all else is equal and you are trying to decide between two houses to buy, purchase the one east of where you work. That way, you won't drive into the sun in the morning or into the sun on your way home." Wiser words rarely spoken.
Driving into a setting sun is no joke. Brightness doesn't even begin to describe it. It's more like blindness. But we survived and the kids arrived to a home swelling with friends and fun.
My plan for the evening was to find a coffee shop nearby and enjoy some quiet alone time. I didn't want to have to drive an hour home and then repeat the two hour round trip later in the evening. I could have stayed at the house where the party was being held (lots of parents do,) but I was really looking forward to some time alone to read and reflect and plan for an upcoming women's retreat.
After dropping off the kids, I drove away, not really sure where I was headed. I wasn't familiar with the city I was in, but I figured a coffee shop couldn't be too far away. I drove back in the direction I came and then found myself wanting to just be home. I was surprised at the intense desire. Here I was, free for the next five hours, with no place to go but the quiet of my own introspective thoughts. And yet, my heart longed for home. I wanted to be with my little people and give them goodnight kisses and snuggle in for a bedtime story.
I fought with myself. It was ridiculous to drive all the way home only to have to turn around and drive back. Make that a double dose of ridiculousness when you account for the fact I hate to drive at night. I kept telling myself to stop and have a slow cup of coffee and read with no chance of interruption. And yet, the more I told myself to stop the more I kept on driving. And drive I did—all the way home.
As I was scolding myself for the insanity of intentionally adding two hours of driving time to my evening, I glanced in my side mirror and saw beautiful orange light. A look in my rearview mirror showed the same. The sunset was exquisite. I so desperately wanted to find a place to stop so I could enjoy the beautiful display of God's goodness and His sovereignty. The world is a powerful place with powerful leaders, but no one but God can make the sun set. Or the moon rise.
The highway I was on didn't offer a good place to stop and the rush hour traffic kept me moving. But every chance I got, I looked in my mirrors, trying to soak in the splendor of the scene behind me.
I kept driving, breathing deep as I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. You see, I have a thing for sunsets. Indonesia, my home for five years, puts on the most incredible nightly show as the equatorial sun makes its decent over the water and the lush green of the rice paddies. I was so obsessed with seeing the sun set every night that my little ones called it, "Mommy's sunset," as if God showed off just for me. I think they may be right.
As I passed the halfway point of my trip back to my littles, the sun's fire behind me, the moon began its ascent. And then I remembered: it was the day of the triple treat: a comet, a lunar eclipse, and the full "snow moon." Add in the delight I have had the last few months as Venus and Mars have been so bright and clear in the early evening sky and oh my goodness...I couldn't drive fast enough. I ached to be out of my car, looking into the sky, camera in hand (knowing full well I would set my camera down in resignation that sometimes the beauty of God's creation can only be viewed in all its wonder by His perfectly designed lens of our eyes.)
The scene in my mirrors and out my windows only intensified. I was so excited I could barely sit still. I know most people don't have a visceral reaction to nature and all its wild beauty, but I do. And I just wanted to take it all in.
Fire descending, white light ascending.
Stress and worry and fear for the future falling, beauty and hope and trust in God's promises rising.
Finally. I was on the road to our house, the tune of the sweet (though slightly annoying) song my kids always sing when we turn onto our road playing in my head without permission: "We're almost on Crawford Rd!" the song repeats.
I pulled out my phone, desperate to catch the last glimpses of the sunset. I couldn't see what I taking pictures of, but I hoped I could capture even a fraction of the beauty making my heart beat faster.
Driving faster than usual on our long gravel driveway, I slammed on the brakes and ran into the house. Jason and the kids stunned, and I heard faint inquisitive words as I rushed past them to grab my camera. "I just wanted to be home," I yelled as I breathlessly ran back up the driveway.
And there it was: a fiery descent in one direction and a glorious rising in the other. I clicked away, determined that if I could position myself just right, the magnificence of this moment could be mine forever.
After dozens of shutter clicks (oh who am I kidding, after hundreds of shutter clicks), I caught my breath as I walked inside. The moon was covered by thick haze so I decided to wait for it to clear and once again told myself that a better telephoto lens needed to move up on my wish list. Walking in, my husband's face was clearly showing that he couldn't fathom why I would be home. He knows how much I hate to drive and due to his work schedule, he wasn't able to make the return trip. I restated my reason: "I just wanted to be home."
I glanced around the room. On the fridge was a piece of paper, written in my ten-year-olds handwriting, the program for the evening clearly stated, including cards, popcorn, and a movie. Noticing half our table was missing (I was running for my camera to quickly to see the situation earlier,) I turned around and looked in the living room. There, with the other half of our table (we use two rectangular tables to make one large square), were my four younger kids, sitting and playing card games, just as the evening schedule said they would. I stared. Levi, my ever-sweet and miniature version of his Daddy, was patiently helping Zach with his cards. Smiles and giggles filled the room and I couldn't decide which site of the evening was more beautiful: the grandeur of the display of God's goodness in the evening sky or the glimpses of God's goodness in the love-filled home where my feet stood.
And then I mumbled, stunned at my realization, "I would have missed this."
If I squelched the unexpected desire in my heart to be home, favoring my own heart longings for a quiet of a cup of coffee and the delight of words in the books in the seat next to me, I would have missed it. I would have missed God's unabashed display of His love for me.
If I chose the easy way (not driving home) and if I chose my own delight (quiet and uninterrupted time alone,) I would have missed the beauty of the sky and the beauty of my children's hearts.
This isn't to say driving two extra hours would always be the right decision, but rather, it is always right to quiet my heart enough to hear the promptings of the Lord and follow them, regardless of whether I understand them or not. I didn't know what God had planned for me on this drive home, I just knew He placed within me a longing for home on that particular evening. And if I had ignored His promptings, I would have missed it.
A few hours and a few goodnight kisses later, I got back in the car and made the long drive west. This time, though, rather than resigned frustration of doing something I didn't want to do, I enjoyed the quiet of a peaceful drive, relishing in the realization that in obeying a prompt in my spirit, the quiet I so desperately longed for earlier in the day was given back to me in the form of an hour-long drive with no words other than the ones of gratitude spilling out of a fully loved and satisfied heart.
Come and stand before your Maker Full of wonder, full of fear Come behold His power and glory Yet with confidence draw near
For the one who holds the heavens And commands the stars above Is the God who bends to bless us With an unrelenting love