The other day I took a jog through town. My husband’s home town. And I ran past the high school and through a few parks and past the cemetery. It isn’t my town. I don’t know who lives in what house, but I’ve been here enough to know my way around. And if I’m honest. I know these streets a little better than the ones in my own home town. I probably send more Christmas cards to this zipcode than my own. It is classic West Texas small town. There is a drag that teenagers still cruise right down the center. I know where to get the good ice. That you can’t buy beer at all on Sundays. How I like my Coney. My way around the local WalMart and United. Which pew to sit in and where we will eat afterwards. Where to get a decent cup of coffee and one of the best breakfast burritos of all time. To expect friends and neighbors to drop by just because often bearing baked goods. I know that if I go to Dos or Hastings or the Coney that we will run into people. That know me, even if I don’t know them. Because they taught my husband’s 3rd grade Sunday school class or coached his soccer team when he was 6. And they will be friendly and ask about Shaun and his daddy and my kids. And I better be prepared to answer and show pictures and smile.And my home town isn’t exactly huge. But it is always changing. I get lost on jogs and ask for recommendations of places to eat. And I wouldn’t know my third grade Sunday School teacher if she bit me. And I’m not complaining. I like that my town has a Target, a Barnes and Nobles, multiple movie theatres an abundance of coffee shops and I’m most likely not going to run into anyone if I go to Shipleys without brushing my hair. I don’t have to worry about how it looks if I buy beer at the grocery store of if people will talk about my new hair color.
And when we visit this place it takes me a while to get used to time moving slower (and the internet). No where takes more than a few minutes to get to. Well, unless you are headed out to eat somewhere nice and then expect an hour drive into Amarillo or Borger or Canadian. But there are no worries about crowds or rushes or traffic, except Sunday lunch at Dos or what used to be Furrs. There aren’t a lot of choices of places to go. Occasionally the movie theatre is open. Last night we saw the only non-cartoon movie on a tiny screen in what my husband likes to call the broom closet. The seats creak, don’t have cup holders and probably haven’t been cleaned since 1977. If you drop an m&m from the back row you can hear it clink as it rolls all the way down to the front. But the popcorn had extra butter and the tickets were only 6$, and I was just happy to watch a movie that didn’t have talking animals for a change. But other than that, I’m not ever really sure what to do with all the space.
Today, I went for another jog. And I went the opposite direction and right out of town. And all I could see were cotton fields and dirt roads and tumbleweeds. One even took me out from behind. The road and the dirt and the empty fields just seem to go on forever. Trees and houses and cars were sparse. And it just felt so big and open and empty. And I wanted to feel a little more of that, so I kept running despite the cold and wind until my calves and lungs burned and then I turned around and walked most of the way back. Slowly, because there wasn’t really any hurry. Untangling tumbleweeds from barbed wire as I went just so I could see them tumble back across the highway.
And it isn’t just the landscape. This whole town seems to be filled with space.
Time that I can’t fill at Starbucks or with friends or with shopping malls.
But only on cold wooden floors with my kids or playing cards at the kitchen table or reading another book on the couch. And this emptiness is something that I often long for before visits. And then get uncomfortable and bored and ancy with pretty quick.
I have never done well with space.
Give me a lull in conversation and I’ll tell a story.
Give me quiet and I’ll turn up my radio.
Give me an hour at home and I’ll fill it. Probably not with anything productive. If I can’t fill it with my kids or my friends I’ll quickly suck it away on facebook or reading blogs or with one of the three or four books I am always in the middle of.
And with people too. I resist the heck out of it even when I sometimes know it is best.
I’m afraid that with people, empty space will be filled with someone better at it.
With time, I’m afraid that I’ll miss out on something fun or important.
With God, I’m afraid that I’m not doing enough or doing it right.
And it should come as no surprise to you that, prayer has never been my strong suit with God.
Or “quiet time”
Because they all require space.
And so here in this place I’m trying to embrace the empty space.
And the quiet and the slow that it provides.
Breathe a little deeper.
Spend more time on the couch.
Less time on facebook (although I've done my share).
More time listening.
Less time saying, “hurry up”
More time staying put and less time running around.
And addressing some of those spaces in my heart that I have been avoiding.
And when I go on another jog tomorrow. I’ll dress a little warmer. Turn down the music a little. Enjoy my slow pace. Listen. Watch my back for tumbleweeds. And then, go get that Coney.