Monday morning we brought our trip to an end. It was time to start our drive home because Hubby had to return to work on Wednesday and Child A had a softball game Tuesday evening. We were hoping to have her at the field in time for practice at 5:00PM. Ambitious, I know...
My dear friends were so generous to welcome us into their home for our entire stay. (Thank you, again!!!) Their boys were a joy to be around and the living faith of their family was very refreshing. I kept saying while we were there that their influence was very calming. My friend is a real inspiration in so many ways. If you'd like to be inspired, she blogs at Our Ordinary Life. Since we had to say good-bye on Monday morning, I read her blog frequently. It helps me feel close to her again.
When we departed, we knew that we'd have to make to St. Louis in order to not be rushed on Tuesday. Illinois highways are under perpetual construction. We have 2 seasons in IL: winter and construction. So, off we drove. One required stop for us at Braum's in Joplin, MO. It's tradition. We stopped there when Child A was 11 months old for her first lick of ice cream and again when Child B was 11 months old for the same. This was Child C's first trip to Oklahoma and she has already experienced the bliss of ice cream, but tradition is tradition, so we stopped for a treat. It was quick and then back on the road.
(Public note to Joplin, MO: Please don't let stores refer to themselves as "toy stores" on their signage unless they actually sell toys. It's not right to confuse children and put parents in awkward positions of having to explain why we can't stop there. At least we were in a hurry and could just use that without lying.)
Our next planned stop would be Cuba, MO for dinner. Who can plan bathroom and gas station stops? So, we were just on a mission to get to Cuba around dinner time and then head on to St. Louis for some shut eye. In Cuba, we stopped at a delicious BBQ joint, Missouri Hick BBQ, which was recommended by the folks at the Route 66 Outpost on our way down. There were various degrees of BBQ sauce, the portions were generous, and we all were very satisfied after. We didn't stop, there, however. Dessert, various cobblers, were also available. We chose 2 to split between the 5 of us: peach and cherry. Oooh, yummy!
Each of the kids made frequent trips to the bathroom and this was why:
They were fascinated by the faucet. Isn't it cute? If there is one thing my kids notice, it's detail!
After dinner, we played around a bit outside. There were those headless people that you pose behind and get funny pictures. Everyone had to have a turn with each one. Here's one of them:
I was driving when we left and it was dusk. I don't like to drive at dusk. I have a condition in one of my eyes that causes a glare in certain lighting conditions and dusk is one of them. But I wasn't really uncomfortable until we were driving on a stretch with woods just to the right of us on Route 66 going back to I-44. For a moment I had a flash of a vision of a deer darting out in front of me. It wasn't real and I didn't react because I knew it was just a feeling. I was gripping the steering wheel and I just prayed. Fear like that is not from God and I put Him back in control. I prayed for protection and for Him to move that fear out of me. I took a deep breath, relaxed my grip, and had peace. Within a minute, a deer came out of the woods; I slammed on the brakes and was down to 5 miles an hour as we passed it. It had stopped or else I would have also, but with deer you just never know if they will keep on running or even jump right into the side of your car. Amazing how God answers prayer, isn't it?
"You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you."
The rest of the night was uneventful, as we arrived in St. Louis and checked into a hotel. We checked out just before mid-morning and hit the road again. Driving past the arch brought about conversations of our trip down and we enjoyed talking about what we might do or see differently next time.
As we drove into Illinois, there were traffic jams as we expected and soon the clouds started getting darker and we drove through some rain here and there. Right around 2:00 PM, we were about an hour and half away from home. Hubby was driving and I looked off to the left, through his window. Now look carefully at what I saw:
Can you see it? I spent 13 years of my childhood living in Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma. I grew up taking shelter a lot. But there was no place to take shelter this time. (Of course, my main goal was really just to get a good, clear picture of this baby!) I probably have 5 pictures of trees when I was trying to get this.
It dissipated rather quickly, so there was no cause for alarm. Not until about 3 more miles up the road, traffic came to a complete stop, the sky turned gray-green, it was pouring, and we were stopped on a bridge over railroad tracks. All I could think about was, "What if another one spawns and we don't see where it is? What if we don't know it's there?" Hubby asked if I minded if he spend $2.99 on a storm-watcher app for his work-provided iPhone. Nope, sure don't mind a bit, honey! Then it cleared up and we were on our way again. Yep, just like that.
We arrived home around 4:00, just in time for the storm to arrive and A's game to be rained out. She only missed one while we were gone because the others were also rained out. She was disappointed about this one, but got over it quickly as we all settled in to being home.
It was truly a lovely trip. We were blessed to see so many family - my brothers, sister-in-law, nephew, aunt, and grandmother. We were blessed to stay with God-loving friends and spend time with Aunt Winna, all of whom really keep their focus on Christ. We were blessed with safety, despite a few quirks with our van and a couple of deer sightings (I don't think I ever mentioned the one after the reunion, around 1:30 in the morning.) We were blessed with a lot of joy and laughter and fellowship. I couldn't have asked for a better trip.
Thank you to everyone who was a part of it. Thank you, Lord, for orchestrating it.