Sometimes you just really want to get home. And you can’t — for the life of you — figure out how to get there.
I was driving, and the girls were in the backseat. Someone had to go to the bathroom, and someone thrust an arm (accidentally on purpose) over the invisible line drawn in the air. Someone was breathing someone’s air.
And that beating sun made my face hot.
I stopped at the sign just east of my house, right before the gravel road that takes us home. From that spot on the highway, you can see these waving trees rising up to ring our yard.
A mere two-hundred seconds away.
I could almost feel the coolness of the kitchen’s rustic-maple planks under my bare feet. And I could almost tolerate the bickering behind me, in that never-ending argument of who-touched-who first.
Just then, a leather-faced man in an orange vest, holding a sign on a stick, approached my car. I opened the window.
“Afternoon, ma’am,” he tipped his hat. “You headed north or south.”
“Neither,” I told him and pointed a finger west. “I’m headed that way. Home. It’s right there.”
“Ohhhh … no you’re not. Sorry to tell you, but you won’t be getting home this way. See that?” He shook a bony finger at a big pile of dirt on the other side of the road. “That’s a trench, a deep trench, and you ain’t getting through there.”
“Even if I gun it?” I was only half-joking.
I really just wanted to get home. Our family had traveled more than 2,000 miles in less than three weeks, and the girls and I were gone yet again, while our favorite farmer stayed home to tend to the pigs. We seriously hadn’t even unpacked the suitcases between trips.
Home had never looked more inviting than it did right then.
But, then, life happened.
And life? Well, it really never goes according to plans.
Life is pockmarked with trenches and reroutes and detours and circuitous twists and almost-empty tanks — each appearing at the worst possible moments. Sometimes, the yuckiest parts happen when the best answers to our most heartfelt prayers seem just.within.reach.
And to be fair, life is also a lot of bucolic fields and open road and put-the-top-down-while-I-crank-up-the-80s-tunes. (Except that I don’t really have a convertible.)
But on the really bad days? Life feels like Road Closed. Life feels like one big, fat back-track. And the Good Lord knows we’ve had a few backtracks in life these last weeks. I won’t get into all of that here, but it’s been a bumpy road.
That day, I thanked the road-construction worker, and I tried hard to mean it. Then, I turned the car around and headed back east, to find another road north, until I could circle around and find my way home in the west.
I took the long way home that day, taking a road I rarely travel, because it was the only way to get there.
I could have missed what came next. Could have missed the beauty. Could have missed the horses with their twitching tails, the Queen Anne’s lace decorating the ditches, that long lane on a farm place I rarely see. Could have missed that beautiful old cemetery, with the crooked tombstones, and a girl’s voice in the back, remembering how her Grandpa lived in Heaven now. Could have missed the favorite song on the radio that played just as we made our final turn toward home.
I could have missed the miracle on the long way home.
I can be such a prisoner of my own plans. And until my own plans get rearranged, I forget that God’s got some pretty remarkable plans of His own.
The real journey has always happened in my detours.
And the truth is, life has rarely gone according to plan. Actual life steps in and doesn’t obey what we tell it to do. And behold: Each twist in the road fills out another piece in the bigger God-Map of a life story. Sometimes we have to wait a good long while before we see exactly how. But I’ve got to believe it’s true.
“I know the plans I have for you.” That’s what the Lord said long ago. It’s the bold-faced truth in 2013, just as it was in ancient days.
We were nearly home, cresting the hill on a road we hardly ever travel, when one of the girls piped up from the back seat.
“Mom! Mom! Look!” she said, with her face pointed toward home. “I forgot how our house looks from here. Isn’t it pretty?”
It was. And it is.
And the gravel dusted up behind us — dusted up on some simple little back-road where the Queen Anne’s lace blooms. And sure enough, we finally made it home.
Photo 1 by Michael W. May on Flickr
Photo 2 by Britt Reints on Flickr
Photo 3 by Terriko on Flickr
Photo 4 by Rastoney on Flickr
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