Originally published in the January 2017 edition of 605 Magazine
It was getting late as I blinked my eyes and strained to look at the unfamiliar road signs. Will this drive ever end? It had been a long day of driving; several stops to change diapers, mind-numbing children’s songs, and loud panting from our dog. We were all feeling extremely ready to be out of the car and at our destination.
Our destination? Here, South Dakota. This was the road trip that marked the life-altering move from Denver, Colorado. Our belongings had gone on ahead of us in a giant moving truck, and we followed a few days behind. We broke the trip up to two days as we had a spirited one-year-old daughter at the time and a relatively young dog in tow. On this second day of traveling, I remember being tired, emotionally exhausted from crying (who doesn’t cry the whole way while driving through Nebraska, anyway?), and hungry. A dangerous trifecta, indeed. As we pulled into the vicinity of Sioux Falls, as luck would have it, I was the driver and my husband (the Sioux Falls native) was the trusty navigator.
“I think I know a shortcut,” my husband declared. “Get off here.”
I sighed – unwilling to get into the entirely cliché “are-you-sure-why-don’t-you-look-at-a-map” discussion – and turned on my blinker and exited the main interstate. As we drove for a few miles or so, I began to notice there were no street lights and it appeared we were on a two-lane highway of some sort. Feeling my blood pressure acutely rising, I checked in with my navigator; “Where are we? Where are we going? And … where are all the people?”
Suddenly, I felt the car lurch over an odd bump and the wheels began to bounce around erratically. What is happening? I thought as my coffee began to spatter out of its cup. Peering in my rear view mirror, I spotted a cloud of dust being kicked up from our car, and then I knew: We were on a dirt road.
“Just a couple more miles of this dirt road and we will be at the new house!” My husband joyously said in victory.
Remember that trifecta I mentioned? Being hungry, tired, and emotionally exhausted? It caught up with me right then and I admittedly burst into a dramatic sob. It was ridiculous. I sobbed.
I sobbed because of the dirt road.
My husband knew we all wanted to get out of the car after a long drive, so the shortcut was entirely warranted. In fact, I know it saved us time. The dirt road was not his fault. But, in that moment, something about coming into our new town on a dirt road felt heartbreakingly symbolic to me. For years, I always dreamed I would end up in some place like San Diego, San Francisco, or Denver. I wanted to raise my kids in urban areas surrounded by diversity. So, when I made it to Denver and met my husband there, I thought, “I’ve found it.” I’ve finally found home. I thought the only dirt road I would ever see is a ski run in the summer. So, when my tires hit that dirt road here in South Dakota? Yah, I sobbed. I felt like I had left civilization as I knew it. And I know now how ridiculous that is, but at the time, that drive on that dirt road truly felt like a death of a dream. An end of an era.
That was several years ago now that we made that drive. It was a trip I will never forget, yet I hadn’t thought about it for quite awhile until just the other day. I was driving (again) by myself and I was on my way to a meeting at a small acreage we recently bought where we hope to move this year. It was one of those crisp blue days on the prairie, where if it wasn’t for the fact that you could see your breath in the air, you might think it was a rather warm, sunny day. As I drove, I found myself in awe of the beauty that is this place called South Dakota. The prairie looked still and peaceful. The frost on the ground added a beautiful sparkle to everything it touched. The countless old trees seemed to nod politely while saying “Howdy Ma’am.” The sky seemed so big I felt like I could see all the way to Denver. And it dawned on me that for maybe the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to be in Denver. Or California. Or anywhere else. I wanted to be here. I felt myself thanking God for bringing me here all those years ago and right when I was doing that, I felt the familiar feeling as my car lurched over an odd bump. I felt my tires bounce around erratically and I saw my coffee begin to spatter out of my cup.
I was driving on a dirt road again.
I smiled. I’ve driven on that dirt road countless times since we bought the acreage, but I hadn’t thought about it in context of when I first drove on dirt road in South Dakota all those years ago until right then. It was as if God was calling my attention to the irony. I laughed at myself as I remembered sobbing uncontrollably as I drove on that dirt road into town all those years ago. Who would’ve thought that years later, I would be thankful, giddy even, as I drove on another strikingly similar dirt road. And then I had the jarring thought, that perhaps that first dirt road didn’t so much symbolize the death of a dream afterall, but really the birth of new, unexpected, and bigger dreams.
As we all charge into this new year, I pray that God would do the same for you this year that He did, and continues to do, for me: To show you the unexpected blessing and opportunity on your own proverbial “dirt roads.” And wherever there is a death of a dream, that the birth of new dream would be joyously revealed.