I once offended a former Wyoming resident when I made a snarky comment about how there was nothing in Wyoming except wind. I tried to apologise later, but I don't think that landed well either. I was recounting the story to another former Wyoming resident familiar with where the first person lived, and she told me that wasn't even a pretty part of the state. Isabel assured me that there were some quite beautiful places in Wyoming, and I assured her that I had limited experience with the state - my experience is I-80 to be exact (which the disgruntled resident told me was the only windy part).
Here's the thing, I spent Monday and Tuesday driving through all of Wyoming. Almost all of it was on I-80, but Julia and I had a stretch of US-30 where we snuck in the state from Idaho. Julia is familiar with the details of my Wyoming sarcasm and she's also familiar with my love for wind. For those who don't know, I love wind. Sometimes the wind is a great reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit. As we entered in to Wyoming, I missed taking a picture of the sign, but we decided to note all the things we found in the state over the next two days.
Here is my complete list:
JC Penny mother store and museum
Flaming Gorge Dam
My mentor, Deedra
A giant white Jesus statue
Just because I didn't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist there, however. I'm told there are way more beautiful things up north as well. Also, Deedra and her husband assure me there are killer sunsets on their I-80 strip, and I did get a glimpse of a good one. One of the things I've learned from listening to the wind is that a whole lot more is going on than I usually pay attention to. There are tumble weeds piling up along highway fences and antelope hopping along the interstate. There is a whole lot more going on inside the hearts and minds of the people I interact with, and seeing the wind in Wyoming reminded me to be sensitive to that.
I've loved the last week road tripping with Julia and having real life face to face moments with people on my support team and former students (and one who falls in both categories). Julia and I get to have lots of good conversations about deep things and ridiculous things as we spend hours together driving, but I also get to have heart checks and belly laughs with so many important people to me. This week started in Portland, but Sunday night we spent in eastern Idaho before a breakfast stop in Pocatello with a supporter who I'd never met face to face. Lindee spontaneously made time to treat Julia and I to breakfast and pray for us as we journeyed on to Wyoming.
Let me tell you, that wind is worth it to brave to get to Deedra. Actually, I've already mentioned how much I love wind, but Wyoming in general is worth braving to get to Deedra. This woman is super important in my life - and I love telling people that. Every couple of years, I get to sit down with this family friend who has such wisdom and grace. I soak up every minute with her. Monday night, Julia and I showed up in Rawlins to have dinner with Deedra and her husband Joshua which was an absolute treat. They opened their home to let us stay and even set up a nice fire in the backyard to relax somewhere outside of a car after so many hours on the road. Julia went to bed early because we had a long day driving Tuesday, and Joshua went to bed at a reasonable time while Deedra and I talked until the fire was down to coals. We talked about how we want to love Jesus better; we talked about how we want to love others better. I was incredibly encouraged by it.
Tuesday morning, Jules and I hit the road with a couple hints of what to look for - though we weren't fast enough with the camera to get pictures of the massive Jesus statue or the welcome to Nebraska sign. I thought Wyoming was bleak, but I didn't see much in Nebraska either. In all fairness, I slept a good chunk while Julia drove. After Nebraska, we hit Iowa, and I managed to get that state sign as I reached the second new state of my day. We got up early to get to Chicago as soon as possible so I could see Ezra and Brooks, two precious HBR guys, and meet Lauren, my new adopted child. (Fortunately Brooks never reads my blogs, so he won't hear about any of this reflection - Nathan, don't tell him.) I genuinely loved this detour on the trip not only for Julia's sake because Brooks is the only friend of hers we planned to see for sure after leaving Portland. Seeing Ezra for the first time in five years was such a delight - you get to hear more about someone's life when you can see their face and lay hands on them to pray with them. Seeing Brooks after two and a half years meant a lot to me too - I often say that I only have six stories about students and four of them are about Brooks. He's seriously one of the most gifted students I've ever taught, and getting to see him meant a lot to me - especially when Jules chewed him out for trying to dodge me after lunch and made him stay longer so we could all pray together. I have some incredible kids.
Julia has reminded me of that - like actually by telling me how much some of my students love me but also through her selfless actions hauling me and my stuff around the country. Once we left Chicago, we got some family time with my bonus sister, Ellie, one of the very first students I ever taught at BFA. Ellie is my bonus sister because her family adopted me, and though I missed seeing the other two siblings, I was so excited to see her in her apartment and see how she's thriving in her adult context. I'm incredibly proud of her.
I'm using the word "incredible" a lot in this post, but Julia told me that's okay because it's been an incredible trip. When we left Ellie, we actually stopped to surprise Julia's family next. She's got a couple siblings and some grandparents in Missouri, and we pulled off for a bathroom break on their farm to get some extra hugs before checking in to a beautiful night with two of my friends from different contexts now living in Kansas City. Angela and I were close for years when she lived in Oregon, and Sandra was one of the first friends I made in Kandern. The two now attend church together, and we had a wild sleepover recounting stories of the past years and reminiscing with each other. We had to take off early for the last leg though, and I'm writing this before bed (scheduling to post Sunday morning) from just outside of Denver.
This whole America trip has been jumbled up and constantly changing as I adjust plans based on availability and covid restrictions. I'm constantly amazed at God working things out though, as I realised when I got to the Tufts tonight that if I hadn't crashed early, I might have missed them on their vacation. Incredible. I have let a lot go on this trip and watched the wind blow away worry and stress while bringing in compassion and fresh perspectives. Here's a jumble of pictures to enjoy of the whirlwind Julia and I drove through this past week.