Just Imagine – Hills and Canyons in Texas

It is hot.
Beastly hot.
Sweat running down the middle of your back, 

under your breasts, around your waist hot.
As usual, you have over-packed.
Way over-packed.
Lugging heavy bags in and out of a car in this heat is sweaty work,
and for the zillionth time, you are embarrassed
by your own inability to make wise and concise decisions in regard to wardrobe.
The temperature is nearing 100 as you pull away from your city hotel,
headed out into the west Texas countryside.
Maps are spread out, navigating instructions offered as needed.

Eventually you are headed toward a canyon,
a place you have never been and cannot quite picture,
despite a plethora of photographs online.
But before you arrive,
your traveling companion –
who is basically along for the ride on this one –
wants to check out some historical sites.
Approximately 120 miles out of the way, all tolled.
Because this is a companion you love and have lived with for over 4 decades,
and because his idea is a good one, you acquiesce.
And the journey begins.

The land is parched.
Not enough rain for a good long time now.
Live oaks begin to dot the landscape as the detritus of urban life
disappears into the rear view mirror.
The sky seems larger, and the clouds are roiling and boiling across it –
sometimes forming huge thunderheads,
sometimes spreading themselves into feathery strips, light as gossamer.

The turn-off from the throughway comes sooner than you expect
and you head off to the north a bit,
looking for a town with a strange name for Texas – Fredricksburg.
And when you find it,
there are lots and lots of other German names sprinkled everywhere you look:

Finally, you see the sign you’re hunting –
Lyndon B. Johnson Historic Park –
and you make a quick left onto a narrow road.

Some who analyze such things have said
that it is impossible to understand the presidency of LBJ
without visiting the ranch, the country where he lived,
the country that he loved.
So, you have come.

Do you understand?
A little better perhaps

You see  his birthplace,
his first one-room school,

his grandparents’ home,

the show-barn where he loved to ride, and lasso cattle,

the hangar where the small shuttle plane still sits (officially, always Air Force One), ready to take the President wherever he needs to go.

And you get to tour the Ranch House, only open to the public for the last 3 years.

And here, in this house, in this home – you get a feel for the man,for his wife, for the life they loved here.
No photographs are allowed inside the house –
a place of warmth and graciousness despite its 8500 square feet.
It feels like a home for ordinary folk, warm and welcoming.
A place where real people lived and fought
and made decisions and learned about life.

And death.
LBJ died here, only 64 years old.
But so much life in those years, so much of our story as Americans.
The hideous war in Vietnam.
The miracle of the Civil Rights Act.

A look at the clock confirms that you will be late for this place in the canyon,
with 90 minutes more driving to do.
And the tension builds within.
Patience grows short.
Do you need gas? Do you not need gas?
Are you on the best route? Should you try this way?
The thunderheads gather overhead, as well as inside your spirit,
dropping their load of long-awaited moisture all over the road ahead.
And the temperature drops right along with it.
Space to breathe.

And then it hits you.
This feeling – this tenseness inside,
this knot growing in your belly,
this crazy, hyper-critical thinking –
this is very familiar.
It happens every time you’re nearing something new,
somewhere things are ‘expected’ – at least in your own mind.
You wonder if you will fit,
if others will notice you,
welcome you,
listen to you,
see you.
It’s the treacherous, life-robbing cycle of fear, that’s what it is.
The stuff that crowds out the wonder,
the thick, syrupy, invasive thief of all that is good and holy.

And the only antidote you know is this one: love.
The only one.
So you silently begin the Jesus prayer,
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Big breath in.
Big breath out.

More love, Lord. More love.
Love for this man who patiently drives you across this desert land.
Love for this land,
this view of big sky and big valleys,
of rolling hills and rocky crags.
Love for this adventure, this opportunity, this challenge.
Love for you, Lord.
And the trust that can only be grown in that soil.
Trust that reminds you, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

to be continued… click here to read the follow-up.

 Joining with LL Barkat at SeedlingsinStone for her weekly invitation:
On In Around button
3 additional photos which speak to the quiet beauty of this space

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  1. Been there and you capture the feelings we felt. Thank you. Beautiful! Keep writing. We’re blessed by it.

  2. cannot wait for more!!!! and oh how I love Texas!!!!!

  3. cannot wait for more!!!! and oh how I love Texas!!!!!

  4. Diana,
    You capture this–all of it, so well–the negotiation of itinerary, the beauty of the land, the feelings of visiting LBJ Ranch (I’ve never been, but I feel the place, through your words and pictures).

    And that knotty tension as something new approaches. How I know it! When I find myself in that place of nerves all bundled and jumpy, I focus on the others I’ll meet. “Who will surprise me most, in person?” “Who will feel kindred?”

    If necessary, “Who will have the biggest nose?”

    It helps me. 🙂

  5. I am not an adventuresome person . . . but lucky for me, my husband is. He often drags me to fun places.

    I met President and Mrs. Johnson when I was in highschool.

    I also hate it when I pack to much stuff.

    Beautiful post.


  6. Beautiful pics and story…
    I had those same anxious thoughts before arriving… isn’t it funny how the enemy tries to steal the gift before it was even opened… I’m glad you prayed, the Lord answered… and all was well, indeed. You are a beautiful woman, Diana. I am blessed to have met you.

  7. I am so, so glad you pressed on. My life is richer because of it. How I wish we’d had more time together.

    And this adventure that you share. I was there, in your words. And thinking that your husband is a lot like mine.

    Love you, friend.

  8. Diana, so glad for the chance to meet you up close, even to look you in the eye. Like Sandy, I’d wish for a little more time. But even so, thank you for getting yourselves there.

  9. Diana! You got to see more of Texas than Laity. Awesome. Thanks for taking us along to LBJ’s home. Your photos are gorgeous.

    I loved meeting you–feel like we didn’t get to talk enough. I had to leave early because my flight time and missed the worship service, so I didn’t get to say goodbye to most folks. But what an amazing time, no? I can’t wait to read more of your reflections.

    (Love that Jesus prayer. And you needn’t have worried. What a gift to meet you.)

  10. I know that feeling, too… the introvert in me wishing I could somehow slip in and participate and yet remain invisible. It happens whenever I head for a conference, or even a church gathering when I’m going to have to give some leadership. But God always goes before me, or walks beside me, or has my back… whatever my need is, He meets it.

    I love your photos and am looking forward to hearing more of your time at Laity Lodge. I’m sure it was a time of tapestry-rich blessings.

  11. Ah, friends, thanks for these kind words. It was such a rich time away. I would not call what Dick and I just experienced a vacation, exactly. It was a ‘trip.’ And there is a difference. He got a bit of a break at Laity – playing tennis by himself! (Maybe next year, we can find him a partner??) So we’re both tired out, but so glad we did all that we did. And meeting so many of your in person was a huge part of that gladness. Thanks for stopping by – and check out part 2, you might find some pictures of some familiar places and people.