I should have left an hour earlier. That’s what I said to myself when I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic for almost an hour, just after leaving Jacksonville, Florida with a seven-hour drive ahead. My rental car was due back at Raleigh-Durham airport by 8:00 p.m. and I didn’t want to add an extra day of fees. Besides, it was the end of my trip and I just wanted to get home. But first I’d have to spend hours on I-95.
There were more slow sections after Jacksonville, with roadwork and onlooker delays for fender-benders. Funny how it seemed like that road had actually extended in the six days since I’d driven down. I stopped briefly for bathroom breaks and to fill up on gas. I’d switch from one radio station to the next, then turn it off and compose a cover letter for my book proposal—saying it aloud to see how it sounded, then listened to a podcast—anything I could do to distract me from looking at the mileage signs—reminding me just how much further I had to go, wanting to pick that car up and fly it.
I filled the drive with thinking of each day of my trip; the cozy birthday dinner with my son, Brooks and his wife, Emily, talking about our grandson due May 5th; visiting with my cousin Linda and sharing family stories; riding my bike under the cover of Australian pines then cooling my feet while walking in the edge of the Gulf; meeting my virtual friend, Jann from Twitter at Starbucks in Orlando; a rainy day at Atlantic Beach working on my book proposal, forced to face it with nothing better to do; driving over the bridges and looking out at the expansive vistas on my way to Amelia Island where I rode my bike on the trail then walked along the Atlantic.
Finally, I pulled into my driveway just after 7:00. My husband, David, helped me unload the car quickly, dropping the piles of stuff on the couch then we headed to the airport. I looked like a haggard mess, like I hadn’t slept in days, circles from allergies and tiredness under my eyes, my clothes as if I’d worn them for a week. We stopped for dinner on our way home. I was too hungry to care about my appearance, glad to eat in a restaurant instead of my car.
“We’ll have some birthday cake when we get home—since we didn’t celebrate before you left,” David said, while we waited for our food.
I liked the idea of continuing my birthday, and cake would taste good after a spicy fish taco.
Once we were home, I started putting away my things while David prepared my surprise. He’d bought me a bouquet of flowers with pink roses and snapdragons, and blue hydrangea—my favorite mix. My yellow cake with strawberry icing and a lemon filling was decorated in an Easter theme with a small duck and cheerful pastels.
But best of all was David’s card– he always picks great cards. The colorful flowers were made with embroidered stems and blooms, some with shiny glass accents. They popped against the black cloth background.
Inside, he wrote:
“Happy Birthday to my happy wanderer!”
Oh, I thought. I must appear happy in spite of my tiredness. He sees beyond my haggardness to the heart of me.
It’s true that even with the day of driving, I was happy. I felt that familiar satisfaction of planning a journey and carrying through with that plan. With each of the fifteen pilgrimages I’ve completed, my confidence has grown and I’ve experienced greater awareness of God’s grace.
Eating my sweet cake, I felt overwhelming gratitude for David’s support and for all the people and places in my path—even my very long path along I-95.
How about You?
What are the things in your life that bring you deep satisfaction?
How do others’ view you when you emerge yourself in that activity?