Over the years of being married young, having kids at a young age, a husband in the military who deployed, a sick parent, and double income working household; I have come to be an excessive planner and like to have control. God has been working on me for years with control, and I do better now than I did in the past. Planning, except meal planning (that’s my mortal enemy), is still a big thing for me. I like to have a schedule, to know the steps to take, the cost, and the ability to know what detours may lay ahead and how to deal with it. Same with packing; I am an overpacker! I must pack extra everything. Leaving for 3 days means you must have at least 10 pairs of underwear! You know, in case you pee your pants 3 times a day; which you haven’t done in years, but never know, this trip may be the one that does it!
So our first out of state trip minus kids, I decided would be for Jason’s birthday. It is in September, but we went in October. We discussed that it had to be where we could drive in 1 day. We squeezed it into his 3 day weekend and added in Thursday. I then thought it needs to be someplace we have not been, so out came the map and notebook for planning. Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, andIllinois are all out because we’ve been there numerous times. Iowa jumped off the page at me. I didn’t know much about Iowa, the topography or what stops or activities would be available on the route. My search began for an interesting relaxing place to stay. AirBNB is my go to search, and it did not disappoint. All Jason knew was that we were going to Iowa. The rest was a surprise.
Jason works in the prison system, loves history and has a fascination that spirits still linger in places. I don’t always share his fascination.
My search led me to Elkader Jailhouse Inn. It was built over 150 years ago to house the county's most dangerous criminals. It was built of beautiful limestone, hardwood floors and decorative wood trim throughout, and sat on a bluff overlooking the town of Elkader. You can see for miles and miles with hills and valleys. The inn had 4 rooms; each with a separate theme. We stayed in the Honeymoon suite that had a bathroom as big as my son's room. I enjoyed an amazing bath in the jacuzzi tub until the bubbles became out of control and began to overflow. The front hallway has stories and pictures about the inn and its history. At the end of that hall you step through the original jail door into the cell block with upper and lower cells. There are original doors, uniforms and bunks, and other pieces of history scattered throughout the room. This room was remodeled to leave as much of the history as possible, but also to be a comfortable place to be able to relax during your stay. A comfy couch by a fire watching a movie, playing shuffleboard or board games, or curled up with a book. I was not disappointed by this Inn.
Besides the beauty of the Inn, the town itself was gorgeous! No stoplights, walk anywhere you want in town or walk the historic nature trail along the river. The town itself is full of quaint little shops, restaurants, a soda shop that carries an abundance of new and old candies, and a 3 story antique mall (that used to be a hotel). I brought a lot of Christmas home from there.
We spent all of our time at the Inn and exploring the town. The main road into town had a giant bridge that was built by an army of engineers many years ago. All of Jason’s years in the military were as an Engineer. It was exactly what he would have done, but now they build them differently. It was breathtaking to stand on the bridge and look over the river. The first night there, I noticed from the balcony a church steeple in the distance. It was a reminder that God is everywhere.
We took God with us as we talked about how beautiful his creation of the earth and areas around us were. As I said before we had no idea what the topography was like in Iowa. So I may have started this backwards because now I want to tell you of our trip there.
We traveled the first day along the Mississippi River to visit the American Pickers store and a couple museums. It was a lot of different towns, but the minute we left town the landscape changed drastically. Having grown up in Indiana and in a family of farmers, we were used to fields, cows, and tractors. Indiana has hills and valleys, but nothing that compared to these. These fields looked to be plowed into mountains and they had dips and valleys all through them. It was absolutely astounding to drive through. When you reached the top, you could see for miles and miles, but instead of trees and mountains, you see fields full of cows or plowed for planting. The different colors and textures! The patterns of rows from planting! We talked about ways tractors would have to be made or operated differently; like tracks instead of tires. How the farmers would have to be prepared since you wouldn’t want to get to the top of a hill or out in the middle of the fields and remember something you forgot. Planning what was going in each section from season to season or year to year. Planning would allow them to be efficient and successful in planting or cattle.
Cows can be very simple creatures from what I know. You give them land, a water source; like a pond, make sure they have grass or hay to eat. I would think they would be content happy creatures just going about their daily business. Then we thought, do cows have plans or paths they do daily? Of course they do, because they know at a certain time each day someone is going to come and feed them some special grain or extra straw. Usually that person feeds them in the same area at the same time. The cows, just like us with our dinner, know it's coming and where they are going to get it. Several of the fields we saw in Iowa that had cows in them had paths that had been carved into the sides of these big hills. Jason and I talked about them having traveled the same path repeatedly to make these paths. They were going somewhere and using the same path over and over: making it easier to get from one place to the other. It was easier on the path than on the rougher parts of the hills and pastures. Their path was smooth and they had plans to get somewhere.
I was reminded of the cows as I drove to an appointment the other day. Country roads alone leave a lot of time watching the scenery, praying and singing off key to loud worship music. On this drive, I passed a field of cows on the move around a small pond. Most were traveling together along 2 paths like the cows in Iowa did. But at the back away from the rest of them was a younger calf, who was not on the path. This calf was stumbling and struggling to make it down the path it had chosen to take on its own. It chose the rough, unstable ground and it struggled. God reminded me that is what often happens to us when we choose our own path or the world's path that leads us away from him. We know that he has a plan or a path for each of us and when we stick to his plan or path we find it to be smoother. Not that we won’t ever have struggles, but we can trust that God is with us; our support, guide, and comforter. When we choose to go on our own path and forget that God is with us, we are likely to stumble; just like that calf who chose to go its own way away from the others.
The wrong path can lead us to many people and situations that are not part of God’s plan for us. Many times the Bible warns us of the enemy prowling around like a lion looking to steal, kill, or destroy us , but we know that God has abundant life for us. On our own path stumbling like the calf, we are more open to the thief and his attacks. But on God's path, like the smooth one the cows are following, following God’s word we are able to have the life he wants for us; an abundant life.
God will always give us a way out when we are tempted and tested on the other path. ( 1 Corinthians 10:13) In the end, Listen for God's plan and path for your life to help you not to stray or stumble from the path he has made for you.