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Sitting side by side in church on the front row, she and I whispered in between verses of the classic hymn.

Do you take a nap on Sunday afternoons? she asked.

Sometimes – depends on what else is going on.

Oh, I always do. Except for today. Because you’re coming over, and I had to clean. But I didn’t do my room. She laughed. So you can’t go in there.

We both laughed. Quietly, of course, in between singing.

Friends bring out the beautiful things in each other, that no one else looks hard enough to find.

The words above hang on the wall of her guest bathroom. How like her, I thought, walking in. And how true.

I had spent the previous three nights with one friend, would spend Sunday night with another; planned to stay with my mom for the next three nights, and would then drive four hours to spend the last night with some of the same friends at their mountain cabin before leaving for home.

Between bookended days driving twelve hours or so on the way to and on the way back from Arizona.

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I hadn’t seen my mom and siblings for over a year and-a-half. And I needed a break.

Before leaving home, I had finished my work for the week, delegated tasks at church to prepare for our next big ladies event, and cleared my calendar for ten days.

The sky between here and there was dappled with clouds. Monsoon season brings texture and moisture to the desert ground and sky.

I borrowed an audio book from the library, and bought a non-plastic-thermos-type-travel-beverage-container to keep my iced drinks cool for hours and hours. I had packed light, brought snacks that wouldn’t make me drowsy (no popcorn or oatmeal cookies or simple carbs of any kind); then kissed the Preacher, and took off by myself in a compact rental car.

Listening to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle took up the first half of the first day of my summer road trip.

In between, I snacked, drank a little coffee (with lots of ice and milk) to keep me alert, watched cloud patterns, got rained on a few times, pulled over to take pics of rugged mountains in various shades of purple and gray beneath desert rainbows, and enjoyed the serenity of leaving responsibility behind. Temporarily.

I texted my kiddos and the Preacher in those middle-of-nowhere-desert places where traffic was light. But really, is there anything else between southern California and Arizona, besides great expanses of nothingness?

I made prior arrangements to fly our girl into Phoenix and pick her up, so she could spend time with friends and family before she starts her newest life adventure. And we could take a mini-road trip together. It’s something she’s talked about doing for a long time.

Mom, we should go on a road trip. Just you and me. And drive across the country to see all those places we haven’t seen yet.

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My Sunday on vacation was almost as busy as any Sunday at home. Went to one church in the morning and to a different church that evening, about 40 minutes away. I only gave myself 30 minutes to get there. The pastor’s wife was waiting, and the sound technician, so I could practice. I had been asked to sing for the evening service. I was only a few minutes late.

Whew! I made it.

Temperatures that weekend hovered around 105 degrees. After practicing I went back to the car, sweat dripping, pulled out a clean top, my curling iron and a few toiletries from my tote bags to freshen up in the restroom while the choir practiced before the service.

By that point I felt frazzled. I’m just as busy on vacation as I am at home. Why did I plan so much for one week?

I’d be staying in four different homes within ten days. And when picking up the rental car I found out unlimited mileage only applies if the car remains in the state. The miles allotted wouldn’t even cover the distance to and from Phoenix, not to mention the additional miles I’d travel in between visiting everyone. The expense would be almost twice what I originally thought.

The familiar but unexpected overwhelming pressed in, squeezing my brain, my heart… and wringing tears.

Father, please help. I thought this was a good idea… but now I’m not sure…

I shook my head and blinked, to stop the flow. At that point I couldn’t change things. Or if I did, I’d have a lot of explaining to do and too much embarrassment to try and hide.

I decided to pray for strength and move forward. I had to remind myself to breathe. And smile. I’d be on the platform singing in a few minutes.

To be continued…

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