Closing the Omaha Chapter (And Craziest Road Trip Ever)

I write from my sister’s coffee shop on the north side of Chicago. Sometimes I wait far too long to post and then realize with chagrin how much I have to catch everyone up on. My apologies. This particular update will be delivered in three acts.

Act One: Omaha Summation

I can’t believe I’m already looking back from the other side of a lived Omaha experience. The slow slip of events from present into the past is like the setting of the moon or the silent glide of an expansive water craft past your vantage point — it’s slow and barely noticeable until at some point your eye catches its position and you realize how much things have changed while you weren’t aware.

(I can almost hear one of my brothers reacting to that soliloquy — “Drama…”)

Anyway. My summation of Omaha is one of sweetness. My four months in Omaha allowed me to soak up the company of the diverse set of communities in which I found (or inserted) myself. My church, the gyms at which I worked out, the jobs I found, the Bible study groups of which I became a part, my InterVarsity colleagues, and the groups of students I supported each became a reservoir of relationships with which God painted the overall experience. It was uniquely satisfying to practice investing in the people I got to live alongside this spring. I’ll very much miss those I’m leaving behind and am so thankful for the ways God built a cohort around me and allowed me to plug in to so many different groups.

Some of the worship team at Bridge Church

I officially left Omaha this past Friday morning. I had wrapped up my various commitments the previous Friday and headed to Denver to see a lifelong friend wed over the weekend. I then drove back to Chicagoland (via Omaha to pick up my carful of belongings) for a brief respite at the parents’ before heading into the next season. That brings us to:

Act Two: Road Trip from #$&%

At some point during the past few months, my youngest brother Chris had expressed interest in going on a road trip. Knowing that I’d be out in Denver at the end of my Omaha stint and would then be driving back to Chicago, I suggested that he fly out to meet me in Denver and that we drive back together and make a road trip out of the journey. He agreed and arrived at Denver International last Sunday (the 27th). The wedding Sunday afternoon was a success — she was beautiful, we were gleeful, the ceremony was executed with class, the mountains stood guard, and the food was tasty. The lovely couple left the premises sometime after 9pm and I joined in the feverish tear-down before leaving to pick up Chris who arrived on a late-night flight. Our adventure thus commenced.

Little did we know what kind of adventure it would be. We had only a rough idea of what we planned to do and what sights we planned to see, but we dropped pieces into place with reasoned calculation after conferring on the way to our first AirBnB Sunday night. Our first day was spent in and around Denver before heading north towards Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

Chris and I living it up at Red Rocks in Colorado (note the unstressed, bright-eyed faces)

The first sign of trouble waylaid us about 15 minutes away from Rushmore on our second day. I’ve known for a long time that my car was decrepit and nearing its last years of life. However, we had been able to maintain a degree of reliability. But that fateful early afternoon, I noticed that the temperature gauge had spiked. After stopping, continuing again, and then being hopelessly sidelined by what turned out to be a radiator problem, our afternoon turned into a 2-hour wait on the side of the road for a tow, then an hour-long tow-truck ride, then 3 hours at a shop and a $500 expenditure to replace the radiator. This marked the beginning of a series of almost laughably unfortunate events that plagued the rest of our trip and singed our nerves to tiny piles of carbon.

The day after next following that initial setback, we were driving along a Nebraska country highway when a turkey ran out of the bushes and burst into flight quickly enough to snuff our chances of avoiding a collision. The resulting impact decimated the right third of the windshield. We happened to be 20 minutes out from a Couchsurfing host and the irony didn’t escape us that we had once again made it almost the entire leg only to be thwarted in the home stretch. We thankfully made it the rest of the way having been only slightly delayed. Our hosts ended up being an incredible band of Cru students at Wayne State University, with whom we ate and laughed and sang worship songs and had a grand old time into the late-night hours. Early the next morning, we departed for Omaha (the nearest locale where we could find a service shop that could fix the windshield that day). On the drive out of town, the temperature gauge spiked again and another roadside mechanic took pity on us — he helped us replace the coolant in the radiator and provided a seemingly reasonable explanation for why a brand new radiator might act up in that way. We continued on and reached Omaha in one piece Thursday afternoon.

Chris and I had managed to hit most of the things we wanted to do and see despite the setbacks, but by Friday we were tired of the less-than-pleasant mechanical surprises. Back on the road again on Friday morning after receiving a new windshield the day before, we made it five hours into our final eight-hour leg (Omaha to Chicago) when, out of nowhere, the temperature gauge shot up again into the dreaded danger zone. After limping off the highway and begging yet another small-town mechanic to take pity on us and diagnose our vehicle, the pronouncement was terminal: the head gasket was most likely blown and it would take much more analysis, time, and moolah than the car was worth to fix it. Chris and I were on our last thread. We called ahead to the homestead and our other brother Ryan was gracious enough to drive to our rescue in the family van. After our second multi-hour stay in a mechanic’s front office (this was becoming much too familiar), Chris and I emptied the Mazda and promptly sold it to someone in town for a couple hundred bucks to be scrapped. When Ryan arrived, we packed up, thanked the benevolent mechanic and his wife, waved goodbye to the Blueberry (the Mazda’s christened name thanks to my Moody basketball players), and drove back to Chicagoland.

I hope Chris still had a good time. We had plenty of adventures, took some great pictures, met fantastic people, and saw new sights. By the time we reached Chicago, I was a bit dazed by the turn of recent events and Chris was a bit worse for wear as well. But that trip will certainly live in memory forever.

Act Three: What’s Next

The past couple days at home have been a nice chance to begin slowing the merry-go-round. There are still plenty of moving pieces. However, what I *know* is this: I had planned to go to Europe to be involved with two ministries there over the summer. However, it had never “felt right” and, though I wanted to go, I didn’t feel peace about moving forward with that plan. That feeling of disquiet climaxed one day a few weeks ago in hearing God say (as much as I hear Him say anything) “Lauren, you need to tell them you’re not coming.” Disappointed, I cancelled my intentions of going to Europe over the summer. However, no clear alternative path has been made abundantly clear.

I have friends (including one of my best who is, bafflingly, willing to let me live with her for the summer) and potential basketball connections in Nashville, TN, and that is where I plan to spend the summer months while I finalize where I will end up in the fall. I’ll be in Nashville working some remote freelance jobs and completing residual remote work for a couple of the organizations I worked for in Omaha, and will also be pursuing coaching opportunities with a youth program or two. The fall still remains to be determined. However, I have been accepted to two graduate programs (one in Virginia and one in Scotland) and am working out the details of what each would entail financially (and otherwise) before making a decision. That should hopefully come through in the next month or so.

This week, I hope to a) complete a motorcycle rebuild project, b) buy a vehicle?, c) see some folks I haven’t seen in a while in the Chicagoland area, d) make some headway on my freelance projects, e) turn a year older on Sunday, f) continue wading through the sea of financial aid options for graduate school, g) finish an entrepreneurial website project, h) hang with my siblings, and i) figure out a new normal when I’m able to get on the road and head to Nashville. Here goes nothing.

Reach out if you want to hang (here or in Nashville or anywhere along the way), happen to have a car lying around I could borrow ( 😉 ), want to join me in any of the crazy projects I perpetually dream up for myself, or just want to talk ? Until next,


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