Reflections: Learning to store things inside

Saturday, November 8, 2008

During a recent road trip, my husband and I took the longest route to our destination. Riding and watching the scenery are always awesome. Although others can't always understand the mystery, beauty and majesty I see, I've learned to stop trying to explain it and simply store the magnificence inside.

It's more gratifying when you can share your joy and emotions with someone else, but not everyone experiences the same effect. As we traveled the charming, winding and hilly roads into Iowa and then Wisconsin, the enchanting views took my breath.

I saw vast acres of beautiful farmland. You could appreciate the expertise of the laborers as they carefully arranged the clean straight rows in the fields.

Cows, horses and other livestock relaxed in the crisp chill of autumn. What artistry, I told myself. We passed one natural painted canvas after another. I marveled at the perfect rounded bales of hay sprinkled immaculately around the pastures. The value of agriculture took on a new meaning. No one could create anything that would compare to that handiwork of God's.

As we continued our journey, we stopped at a quaint little restaurant on the outskirts of a rural town. It was nothing fancy. The waitresses were dressed in jeans and one chewed gum. She turned up the volume on a boom box sitting behind the counter, announcing that was "her" song and began dancing around. It was fun to watch and something else I could store inside. The friendly atmosphere warmed my mood.

We decided to indulge in a river walk in another area as we motored through. What beauty the mighty Mississippi held. Small, scattered islands filled the waterway. I visualized Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and visited another world -- an escape. I savored those sights, too, and held them inside to contemplate another time.

As we walked along the scenic path we passed a large antique brick building, the home of a winery. A sign was posted saying, "Free winetasting today." Forgetting our casual attire of jeans, sweat shirts and tennis shoes, we could scarcely wait to hurry in for one meager taste. Upon stepping into the rustic cellar, we were greeted by noisy crowds from the nearby convention center. Still absorbing my surroundings, I slunk into the nearest booth, hoping no one noticed my clothes. The whole scenario was intriguing and my head swirled with thoughts of wonder. I gave thanks to God for life and kept the beauty and unexpectedness of this experience safely tucked within.

Our van kept moving, but our destination was quickly approaching. I regretted we were so near. The fun of traveling or reaching any goal lies in the process -- perceiving along the way. Anne Frank's diary of a Jewish girl and the Holocaust says that while she hid, she observed and noticed intricate details around her small quarters and outside her tiny window that she would never have experienced otherwise. She had the time to take in her surroundings. Anne, too, held onto her observations and kept them safely locked in her heart.

All during our expedition I treasured what I saw -- the changing leaves, beautifully manicured fields and picturesque red barns. It was indeed God's country. No human could even imagine such perfection. I thought of the scripture about Mary "and she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) She didn't merely listen to what she heard and saw, she pondered them later in her heart.

People, too, can hold on to their encounters and joys by paying attention along the way and then carefully storing them inside -- to reflect upon another time.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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