The Art of the Detour

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I hung a wreath made of autumn leaves on our front door. Fall had announced it’s arrival by splashing the trees that surround our home with brilliant orange and yellow, and vibrant reds and rich brown hues. I was just beginning to enjoy the entrance of the new season when my throat began to have that old familiar itch. Ugh.

I immediately pulled out my arsenal of preventives and began a regimen of salt water gargles, zinc lozenges, and saline spray. The symptoms grew worse by the hour. My throat felt like it had been groomed with a metal rake, and my sinuses felt like they had been replaced with rising yeast dough. Reluctantly, I went to the cupboard and pulled out the nasal rinse bottle. I once wondered why anyone in their right mind would voluntarily bring themselves to near drowning by way of a nasal enema. Yet, desperate times bring desperate measures. As much as I hate this procedure, I have found that it often wards off a head cold and can also reduce sore throat pain. For me, it’s like bringing out the big gun. However, this time I lost the battle.  Along with my balloon head and raw throat, I felt like a rusting tin man who needs oil in every joint. I retreated to the couch and crawled under a soft, cuddly throw.

“I don’t have time to be sick!” I complained.

My husband has heard this at least a thousand times in the course of our marriage. One great thing about our relationship is that we usually know how to make each other feel better. He knows a great foot rub can tame the growling beast, so he served me hot tea and worked on my feet. The next morning he built me a warm, cozy fire in the wood stove before he left for work. Sweet guy. I hauled my blanket and pillow from the bedroom and sat in the recliner, with a box of Kleenex on my lap, and watched a gentle rain through the sunroom window. My energy was zapped. The week’s agenda came to a grinding halt.

But I found that there is something good that can come from sitting in a stationary position, and not wanting to move anything but your eyeballs. You start to notice things that you have missed. My gaze followed the length of the sleepy summer flowerbed. It made me a little sad that it was beginning to wither back into the ground. Then I saw them. Just beyond the glass umbrella table, grew three or four giant, deep purple and soft white, dahlia’s that gracefully balanced atop their tall, slender stems. Image                                                          It was an unexpected second bloom. I had walked by the back window all week without noticing this perfect work of art. If I hadn’t been curled up with my pillow in forced rest, and in full detour of the day’s schedule, I may have missed this completely. I couldn’t help but smile.

My friend, Sharon, has mastered the art of the detour. We often get together when my husband is away on business, or when he has retreated into the Trinity mountains to go hunting. I have learned the most from Sharon while on day trips to various places that we have read about, and then made plans to explore.

It has been my nature to take the shortest point from  “A” to “B”. My motto is: Get there. But when its Sharon’s turn to drive, she prefers to find little side roads that in a round about way will eventually lead us to our destination.

It was fall and we made plans to take our first long day trip into Northern California wine country. I had grown up in that area and absolutely loved being there during the harvest season. So I was excited to go back for a visit when grape clusters still hang on the vines and are surrounded by leaves that are tipped with a hint of fall color.

We left just after sunrise and Sharon was in the driver seat. She mentioned that she wanted to take a nice little drive on a back road that would eventually drop us into the Napa Valley. In fact, she thought it might even be a short cut. I had never heard of this particular route, but if it was short cut, I was all for it. Soon we were on a road that wound its way up through a wooded mountain range. Up and down, and around and around we went. I have to admit that I was a bit antsy to, well, get there, so after what seemed like days, I asked, “Are you sure you know where you are going?”

I was use to zipping down a four lane highway, then taking a short jaunt on a two lane highway – and “Ta-da!” I was back in the valley where I had grown up. We had been on that road so long I could swear we were headed to Canada. I began to wonder if we would be viewing the vineyards under the midnight moon.

“Yeah.” Sharon calmly answered. That was it. No explanation.

So stated that I had never heard of the route we were on – and I use to live in that valley. At least that was where I hoped we were headed.

She chuckled. Then she commented on how lovely the trees were along the roadside. I looked out the window and thought, we are so lost.

One thing I really like about my friend Sharon is that she can maintain a certain state of serenity, even when I am getting a little on the wound up side. It can have a calming effect on me…most of the time.

Another great thing about my friend is that she totally cracks up when I make sarcastic remarks like, “Excuse me sir, can you tell us where the Napa Valley is because we have no idea where we are. However, we are enjoying the lovely trees along the way.”

Laughter makes the heart merry – and sometimes calms a wound up friend.

The road eventually led us on a curving ride into the golden foothills and then dropped us into wine country – just as Sharon had said it would. I ate my words.

                                                  Image        Along the way, we passed by beautiful country vineyards that I had never traveled far enough north to see. Some of the vineyards were small and quaint and inviting. Others spread majestically over several hillsides. We rolled down the windows and breathed in the fresh air. I relaxed into my seat and soaked in the perfect scenery. It was indeed a lovely drive!

    Sharon found a small park off the beaten path where we enjoyed a picnic lunch, then we continued to drive along the back roads and found several smaller wineries with beautiful grounds where we could stroll about and snap pictures. And after a long day of exploring, wine tasting, and trying new foods, we got into the car and headed home. This time, we took the four lane highway. It was dark and late, and my eyelids were heavy. I arrived home under the midnight moon.

That day I discovered a richness that can be found in taking the road less traveled. It slows your pace, offering you a break from a high-speed world. Your breathing slows and your muscles relax. And the road less traveled often leads to new discoveries that you would have otherwise missed. Since that day, I have taken many more detours, and have enjoyed all that the backroads have to offer.

Sometimes I forget that the art of the detour isn’t limited to road trips. It can happen right here at home. Like stopping for just a moment to look out at the flower garden, where I may find something unexpected and beautiful. I have also come to realize that a detour may present itself in a completely different way.

Sometimes my plans are abruptly interrupted. Often times that can mean those plans go right out the window. I do not like it when that happens. In fact, I can down right resent it. When I have made a specific plan, I like to stick to it until I have completed it. There have been times when an interruption has changed the course of my life, and at the time I couldn’t see the good in it.

Yet I have found that those interruptions can often lead to a detour that brings hidden blessings that I would have otherwise missed. I have made different decisions that have yielded better outcomes. I have gained new perspectives on life that I may not have seen without the detour. I have found that some interruptions require selfless acts of kindness, which sometimes entails a major attitude adjustment on my part. Yet there is a goodness that comes from that, a goodness that reaches to the depths of the soul.

And at the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, I sleep well.

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I’m Tired

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I was in the grocery store when I observed a toddler walking behind his young mother. She was pushing a grocery cart that was laden with food items, along with an infant in it’s carrier that was positioned in the top section of the cart. As the toddler plodded along, I noticed that his pace began to slow, when suddenly, he plopped himself down right in the middle of the canned food isle. His mother noticed that he wasn’t directly behind her and turned to him and asked, “What’s the matter?” He leaned back on his elbows and answered, “I ti-yard!”

As I watched him recline on the tile floor, I thought to myself, “Little man, I’m right there with you!” Then I thought, if big people were allowed to do what this little one was doing, then there would be adults plopping themselves down in grocery store isles all across America!

This little guy was physically tired from walking, what was to him, a long journey through the grocery store. As we become adults, the tiredness that we experience becomes more than physical. There is a mental drain that comes with the daily stressors in our lives, which often transfers and taps our physical energy. It is often called “the daily grind,” but what starts as a small pack on our back can often build to a heavy burden we end up carrying on our shoulders – and we become tired.

Are you feeling tired? What burdens do you carry on your shoulders? A possible job lay off? Bills that surpass your paycheck this month? A negative medical report? Your child’s future? A failing relationship?

If you are like me, there are times when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. This isn’t what God planned for our lives. In fact, he says for us to bring our burdens to him, to give them to him to carry for us. He offers something that is humanly impossible for others to offer to us.

When I go to him and vent my worries and frustrations, he patiently listens. Then when I am quiet and ready to listen, he tells me to give him all my worries, all my junk, to lay it all down at his feet and leave it there. When I take him up on his offer, I can feel him lift the weight from my shoulders. Doing so gives me a sense of freedom that can’t be found in this world. A wave of peace washes over me and my restless nights dissolve away. Jesus tells us “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Because of what he has done, and what he continues to do, He has become my hope and my resting place.

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure

   I spent my childhood years making family trips to the ocean. We spent hours being chased by the crashing waves and warming our wet toes in the heated sand. Those were days that I looked forward to and they have left imprinted memories in my heart. Since then, I’ve married another beach lover and we have had our own family tradition of making summer treks to the oceanside. I’ve watched my own delighted children as they’ve danced in the ocean waves and let the cold sea foam roll over their toes.

One beach that we frequented over the years had an unusual characteristic. Decades before our arrival, the seaside town residents had dumped it’s trash over the cliff’s above this small beach. This was long before the birth of ecology awareness, at least for the general public. Amongst the garbage was tons of discarded glassware and pottery, along with appliances and old cars. Eventually, the dumping was forbidden and a long term cleanup of the beach was done. In the meanwhile, over decades, a wonderful thing happened to the broken glass that had been thrown away.  As the pounding waves cleansed the beach, they also transformed the broken pieces of glass, smoothing, and polishing them into thousands of jewels that washed up onto the shoreline. It became a treasure hunt for our family to find the perfect pieces to bring home with us.

Our children are now grown and several years have passed since we’ve walked along the pebbled glass shore together. A few pieces of those memories sit on my office desk for me to enjoy. When I look at the unique shapes and colors of glass, I wonder if they could speak, what would they tell me about their journey? I think about how these simple pieces of glass had become someone’s garbage that they threw out, they were considered as trash. Yet, here they are on my desk, and they have become my treasure.

I have made a small candle holder that is lined with some of my jewels and on dark days, I’ll light the candle and the colorful glass pieces come to life. Today is one of those gloomy days, and the rain is beating against my office window. I’ve lit the small candle in the holder and as I enjoy watching it’s light dance through the unique glass jewels, the thought occurs to me that there is a resemblance to humankind in this artwork. Each person has their own story of what has brought them to this place in time. Some have had a long and meaningful journey, others have hit rough waters. Then there are some who, as the glass on the beach, have been discarded as trash. But as the glass has been transformed into treasure by a majestic power that cannot be bridled, I believe that  we too, can be transformed. I believe that the One who moves the mighty ocean holds us as treasure in the palm of his hand, and says, “Look! Aren’t they beautiful?”

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