Sometimes the stresses of daily life can become overwhelming and you find yourself daydreaming about sitting on a beach with a cold drink in your hand. In our minds (or at least in mine), we can transport ourselves to a place where time does not matter, away from the monotony of a long grocery store line or the mind-numbing elevator music heard while holding on a phone call. When that restless feeling starts setting in, you know it is time to take a break. Even if a week-long vacation to a Caribbean setting seems out of the question, a lot of us have places we like to escape to, even if only for an hour, day or weekend.
Whether you like to admit it or not, everyone needs to get away from time to time. When I do, I head straight to Leon County in East Texas. There, you will find the welcoming little town of Oakwood, complete with a population of about 450 people. Oakwood is home to not only my family’s lake house, but to stunning backdrops of huge, ancient trees, fields of cows, bails of hay and picturesque farms alongside a winding two-lane highway. So many of my most-treasured childhood memories happened there, and the stories I could tell about my favorite Texas town are endless. It is where I learned to drive, where I still go camping with life-long friends and where my family gets to spend quality time together without the distraction of cell phones and to-do lists.
I have an understanding with nature at the lake. I can completely be myself. My cell phone most likely will not work and keeping up with Facebook is not even an option. I cannot help but marvel at how after 27 years of spending most of my weekends at Stanmire Lake, I still get butterflies in my stomach when I turn off the highway and my tires meet the red dirt road. The level of excitement when I arrive is the same now as it was when I was 10 years old. As you round each corner, friendly, familiar faces wave at you and welcome you back home. As you drive further and further back into the thick, dark woods, horses mark time, running free next to the fence posts alongside the road. Occasionally, a bobcat or raccoon will hunt for prey right before your eyes. Pine trees and moss-covered flora branch high into the sky creating a canopy over the swamp-like forest with only a skinny, bumpy dirt road providing a pathway through the scene. Our little lake house was originally built in the 1930s, but the comfort and ambiance it provides is unparalleled. I love that there is a place in my life that has remained an unchanged constant for all of these years. When you are at the lake, nothing can disturb you. You are transported to a world of outdoor adventure and porch swings that rock to a slower pace. Problems magically become obsolete and all is well in the world. I swear, even my dog seems happier when he is there!
There is something to be said about the healing power of watching a gorgeous sunrise or sunset across the lake. Oftentimes, in the early morning hours, I will grab my book and coffee and sneak outside on the porch to watch as the mysterious-looking fog rolls across the lake in front of a colorful sunrise. In those moments, I find it hard to question God’s plan. Time after time, He puts me right there in that exact moment to be reminded of how much He loves me and has a hand in every aspect of my life. For some reason, every photo I have ever taken of the phenomenal morning views or the luminescent moon glowing from behind the trees does not do the actual scene any justice. The failure to capture an adequate photo reminds me to be present and still while I take in the world around me. Maybe I will not get to share the gorgeous scene with my Facebook friends, but a photo would not capture the feeling you get when you hear an owl hoot in the trees or see a big fish create a splashing ripple on the water.
Other times, I take in a view of the lake from the deck of our small fishing boat. When I am out on the water, fishing pole in hand, I witness incredible things that I cannot see anywhere else. I might see an eight-foot alligator creeping through the bushes (which happened recently), a snake slithering across the top of the water on a malicious errand or a deer and her fawn taking a drink from the lake. I am stunned knowing some people will go their whole lives and never see a natural sight like this. It makes me so grateful for the experiences I have had at Stanmire Lake.
When weekends there draw to an end, it can be hard to talk myself into driving home. I love my day-to-day life here in Frisco, but there is something so magical about everything I experience in Oakwood. I guess you can say I have the best of both worlds! For that, I feel so lucky.
We all have a spot on this earth that reminds us everything will be OK. Whether that spot for you is in a park, on a snowy mountaintop, riding a wave, at the altar of a church or even in a shopping mall, embrace the calming feeling you sense when you are in your “happy place.” We are surrounded by life’s simple blessings every day, so stop and smell the roses. No matter what changes in your life, YOU will always be YOU, and some things are great just the way they are. With the holidays rapidly approaching, take time for yourself before the happy and joyous chaos begins. Start a new book, write in your journal, take a nap or go for a long run outside. Let yourself become reacquainted with the reasons why you love to spend time with your family and loved ones. Do something that removes you from the relentless grasp of technology, emails and endless phone calls. You just might discover how much you learn about the world around you when time is not of the essence.