Road Trip!

We went on a long drive this weekend. Maybe we were not supposed to. Perhaps we should have stayed home. But we stayed safe — and realistically there is nothing else to do, am I right? Better than being exposed to viruses in the grocery store, right? So, we went. I had some goals and things to see along the way, so I planned the route the day before. Google mapped my meandering “scenic” journey through countryside and small towns. Not that anything was open. It was about the journey. What about you? Do you love a good road trip? With four kids plus the two of us, budget often dictates we drive instead of fly. We have done our fair share of road trips. Our kids have travelled via minivan from day one. They are good travellers and we have all survived. Technology helps… but planning is better. I remember travelling to Disney and creating “car kits” for the kids with games and snacks. Now they are older, so technology it is… unless you are picking up the oldest who has been slightly isolated and needs to share. Or the youngest who never gets enough one on one attention and will talk your ear off if given the correct topic.

The hubby and I used to talk a lot on road trips — how we would never do what so-and-so does with their kids, as our future children will be angels. (*cough* wheeze …choking on our own words). Or, what our perfect house would look like if we had money to burn. We don’t chat much now on car rides… unless it’s me telling him to slow down, or to get gas before it is too late. Or making that sucking-in-air noise as you brace the sides of the door handle as he changes lanes. Like your feeble human arm will protect you from that 18 wheel semi truck who happens to be too close. Come on, I know I am not the only one who does this, am I right? Aged nerves are not as steely as they used to be. Maturity has a way of doing that to you.

Nonetheless, we road tripped a little this weekend. The sun shone, the van was gassed up, and time was on our side. We plugged in our phone and punched in the first “stop”. Anyone remember those fold out maps (à la paper) with highlighted routes and sharpie x’s here and there? Doesn’t happen anymore, does it? Phone apps and google maps rule now. Which had me musing… oh, how we trust in that little piece of technology. We believe it will get us there. On more than one occasion, I have told myself just to trust the GPS… it knows. Truthfully, it usually does.

As we travelled along this time, we, again, trusted in our app and turned down a somewhat questionable sideroad. It was paved, but narrow, and a little too country for my liking… and not where I had planned. I asked the hubby, and he assured me that the maps were giving us “the fastest” way. There was very little signage on the this backroad… but it eventually came back out to a main street and we continued along without incident. This little blind side trip had me thinking again… How many times do we want clear and visible signs?

We often want clear signs! (photo credit: Ryan McGuire)

If you are anything like me, you want signs to point you in the right direction. Some concrete indication that yes, this is it. This is God’s plan. This is what I should be doing — or that big sign that says “TURN HERE” you are going the wrong way! The map has the big sharpie X plainly highlighted with all the stops. I looked up “signs” in my Bible app… and “signs and wonders” often accompanied each other in the listed verses. Seems like humanity has always been looking for “signs”. The big miracles. Clear indications of supernatural influences. Many of the early Jesus followers were seeking just these magic shows, however, and not really interested in Jesus himself or His teachings. Still others were unconvinced… hardened hearted Pharaoh mocked Moses’ “signs”. His own magicians could conjure up snakes and smoke just as impressively.

Perhaps as you’ve been home, contemplating life with the rest of us, you are looking for signs too… should you go back to the same job? When is it “safe” to go out? Who should make the decision to reopen businesses? And when? I’m with ya. I want life all mapped out, too. Yet, our online Sunday service this week reminded us that sometimes we need to reassess, and perhaps a pave a new path on our spiritual journey. God sometimes asks us to go where the road is not clearly marked. Where the road is narrow and a little too “country backroad” for our liking. And for a brief moment we are scared that it is not the way.

Still, Who is in your driver’s seat? Who controls the GPS and the steering wheel of your life? Do we give up full control and say, yup, Jesus, go ahead and take the wheel? I’m just along for the ride. It’s hard. It’s scary. It may even be a little dangerous. It’ll take some faith and a whole lotta trust. But — it may just be worth your drive. Happy road-tripping, my friend, happy road-tripping.

Death and the Wind

Well. It’s been quite the week. Our “new normal” of self isolation continues, much like all of you. It seems we’ve had quite a lot to ponder over these weeks — but not much to share. I’m finding it hard to be inspired when nothing new is happening. Perhaps that’s a cop-out because there should always be something new, right? Never stop learning and all that. Should take my own advice sometimes! So here goes: As I write these words, the wind is howling outside. Empty and angry, yet cleansing, in a way. It seems to be clearing the world of debris. My poor, old house creaks and groans as it gets shoved around along with the trees outside. My windows are rattling. It’s grey and overcast, and today has been a quiet, slow one after our makeshift festivities and family chats over the internet, remnants of an unusual Easter weekend.

It’s supposed to be a season of rebirth and resurrection. Honestly, I had planned to write about growth this week…. but it seems like I am stuck back on Good Friday and am in the limbo between it and resurrection Sunday. Death seems to be on my mind. Which sounds horrid and morbid and is a terrible title for a blog post. It evokes images of heavy metal thrasher bands and dark images from gothic artists. So my apologies if you came looking for some bright and cheery words of encouragement today. Perhaps we will get there by the end of my 700 or so words.

There seems to be plenty of depressing reports in the news these days during this world wide pandemic. Current data shows over 119 000 deaths as a result of the Coronavirus across our planet. People are dying at an alarming rate. Then, of course, there are unrelated deaths: people are still starving, people are still getting older, people are still without proper healthcare, clean water and hygiene. Hate is still part of our lives. Depression and mental health is still running a muck — maybe even more so — as we are cooped up and forced to face our own thoughts and fears. Our personal demons are joining forces with some very real ones. And in many places, fear and chaos are becoming their leaders.

I’m hearing stories of good, hard working people getting knocked down by the overwhelming death toll. Refrigerated box cars becoming makeshift morgues. Mass graves being dug for the homeless and unnamed. Bodies are literally being dumped on the streets in some parts of the world. Day after day it’s all we see and hear about. It’s easy to see how those on the frontlines are quickly becoming bogged down by the pain and sorrow of it all. And then, how do you mourn? How can you comfort one another from a proper “social distance”? What happens when you cannot say “goodbye”? Closure is difficult from your phone screen. We have etiquette and social graces for death. We say the right things and send flowers and cards. But for so many? What is the response? I don’t know either.

I’m listening to the wind again. Trying, like Nicodemus in John 3, to figure out how God will use all this for His good. He will — because He loves us. It says so in that very same chapter: John 3:16. One of the first verses you learn. Even the football players and sports fans know it. It tells us the story of that fateful day so many centuries ago. The wind was there on Good Friday, too. It shook the houses and the windows rattled as the sky grew dark. The wind eventually will calm down again. Life will carry on and we will once again see that Hope of Easter Sunday. We have the Hope. It’s just a little bit hidden right now. Death was conquered permanently on that weekend. Have you been like Nicodemus, my friend? Trying to figure out what on Earth is going on when people speak of new birth, resurrection and that hope in this dark world? Why do we celebrate Easter weekend? Because of Faith in what is unseen — like the wind. We cannot predict it, like the curves on the covid 19 stats wall… or even death itself. It’s beyond our control. Faith is that big step into the unknown. Where the wind will then carry you.

Toothpaste Caps are Useful Tools

So I need to vent a little bit. Please bear with me. A woman in (midlife) crisis is allowed to blow off a little steam once and awhile! Can anyone please, please tell me why on earth my smart and darling children cannot figure out how to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube?! I am forever finding toothbrushes back in their container, towels on the rack, but always the toothpaste cap sitting next to the tube. Really?! And before you flood the comments saying that I can get those tubes with caps attached… yeah, tried that…cap attached but left open!

It always seems to be those little things that keep coming back to bug me. The toothpaste cap, the shower curtain left open, the lights forever on in completely empty rooms, the cupboard doors left open, the pile of shoes at the front door, the … well, you get my point. We always seem to have some little quirk, some little thing that just drives us crazy. And it is usually something that someone else does. Our quirks. No. Not me. Why do we notice them? Why do those seemingly innocent things urk us to the point we are tempted to declare toothpaste cap war in the bathroom? I mean, does it really matter if the cap is on or off?! (Besides the fact that the caps get lost and then the minty gel is dry and sticky and exposed to who knows what sitting on the bathroom sink…)

Come on, I know I am not alone in this quandering. What’s that thing that drives you batty? The way your beloved folds socks? The way your toddler insists on hiding snacks on the shelf for later? That annoying pen flick ? Or maybe it’s someone at work… or worse, a friend at church? And, no, it’s not going to ruin your lifelong friendship, or cause holy war… but it is just that constant dripping faucet that eventually leads to a complete flood.

Recently, our Bible study group was learning about just such little things. The Devil is devious and uses a variety of ways to deceive us… both big and small. In Canada, Satan uses tiny nuggets of temptation to move us ever so slightly off the path of our journeys with Christ. It’s such a subtle thing. We waiver, or compromise, just a bit, and then a bit more, and soon we are heading in an entirely different direction then we intended. I’m sure you’ve heard countless stories of people who got caught in a “little white lie” that soon snowballed into a deep pit of deception. We don’t intend to blatantly disobey… it “just happens”.

I am sure you would agree with me that those other-people-quirks-that-drive-you-crazy habits are ones that are simply not priorities — to them. Toothpaste caps are obviously not forefront in my children’s minds. Which is why we have practices and disciplines that help us stay on the path. Soldiers and first responders practice drills over and over again, so that when a crisis does come, they simply react automatically. Tiny muscle memory procedures that prevent bigger issues later on.

I guess we all have to learn to be a bit more aware. We all need to focus and question and examine our day to day. Is there something I do that is causing grief? Is there something that is a subtle step sideways that just might lead me down the wrong path? Do we need to establish more practice and disciplines that will help eliminate the subtle deviations? Maybe I should just be thankful that the kids brush their teeth… and put up a big sign on the bathroom door: DON’T FORGET THE CAP!