Saturday I made the quick trip up to Nashville to visit my friend, Cindy, from college. She is one of those rare gems of a friend that refuses to let me fall out of touch (which I am pretty skilled at). She is the kind of friend that I can exchange Facebook messages with once every six months (or longer), and then go for visit and pick up right where we left off, without having to cut through any discomfort or small talk. Cindy is personable, quirky, wise, and hilarious - and I love all those things about her. When I was a freshman in college, Cindy accompanied me and two other friends on what we all still refer to as "The Best Spring Break Trip Ever."
When I came up I65 and saw the Bell South Tower and the rest of the Nashville skyline, I wanted to tweet at all the famous people who live there and say, "I'm here!" I recognize that this is a really obnoxious non-famous-person thing to do; so I showed restraint. You know, to save my dignity.
I was there for one night and Cindy and I made sure to get Starbucks at Barnes & Noble, dinner at Cheddars, and dessert at a GENIUS frozen yogurt place called Sweet CeCe's.
You grab a cup, choose from maybe 12 flavors of soft serve, and then choose any combination of toppings your little heart desires. They weigh your cup at the check out, and charge by weight. Tip: whipped cream weighs almost nothing.
The shoppe we went to has an entire WALL of toppings, in tubes that go the whole way to the ceiling. It was very Willy Wonka, only less creepy.
Madeline performed as well as any two-year-old could ever hope to. She handled it all with grace: the new places, new people, an unfamiliar place to sleep, and the hours of riding in a carseat that restricts limbs a little less than a straight jacket. I am so thankful that she is a better traveler than I am a navigator. Which brings me to the purpose of this post: the drive home.
I left in the morning, so that I could be home in time to help Dan at church. I was making great time. I sent Dan a text message 45 minutes before church started saying, "I'm in Huntsville!
20 minutes later he replied with, "Where are you???"
To which I replied, "I don't know." (My whiney voice was implicit, I think Dan got it.)
It all happened so fast.
You would think that a well-educated 25-year-old would have a pretty good grasp of geography. Or at least East versus West. (This is because you've never see me try to determine my right from my left. It might also be helpful for you to know that for a long time, I thought Guam was in South America.)
I was exiting I65 onto a highway that I KNOW, that I travel often. The sign at the end of the exit ramp lied to me (EVIDENTLY it was a "tad" twisted around). It told me that Huntsville was to the left (west) when it, in fact, is not.
I followed the sign blindly. So much faith. There is a life lesson here somewhere, something about critical thinking and not believing everything you read.
I drove west and west and west - about 20 minutes through farm land before I thought, "I should be in Huntsville by now. This looks nothing like Huntsville."
I turned around on a gravel road, and almost immediately saw a sign that said, "Huntsville - 52 miles."
My head almost exploded, because at this point in our journey I was bursting. I didn't want to stop for the bathroom and wake Madeline up, since she had to be a happy traveler for at least another HOUR. It was a torturous mind game, weighing the pros and cons.
"If I keep going, Madeline will stay asleep and I won't have to listen to a British woman singing nursery rhymes for an hour. If I stop, my bladder may not explode within me."
I was miserable. The only other time I've ever had to pee so badly was on an airplane flying from Raleigh, NC to San Diego, CA. I was in the window seat with two sleeping passengers between myself and the aisle (whom I've since forgiven). Two hours into the flight I was sweating and feeling faint. When we deplaned my friend, Beth, and I rushed to the bathroom and confessed to each other as we were unzipping our pants, "I've had to pee since KANSAS!!" "Me too!"
With every mile I drove back east I was amazed at how much faith I had in the signage. "I can't believe I drove this far." Sigh, ever the optimist.
It was about that time that Dan called and asked, knowingly, "Are you lost?"
My mom has moved a lot, more than your average bear, and I've learned volumes watching her do it. Shortly after moving to Texas, she called me and shared stories, some funny, some tearful, about finding her way through Dallas. She explained how one road had 6 names depending on which stretch of it you were referring to. She explained the access roads, the traffic, the maniacs in over-sized trucks. She explained how every exit is backwards, that everything loops around seven times. She said, "I've just learned to trust the signs. You have to turn right to go left, you see something off in the distance, but there is no logical path from here to there."
And somewhere in middle of her stories she gave me precious, sage advice that I will remember for the rest of my life.
She said, "You know what I've learned? You're never lost if you know how to get home."
(I hope you're already applying this to your life; it is so much bigger than driving.)
"You're never lost if you know how to get home. It might not be the shortest way, or the easiest, but as long as you can get back to somewhere you know - you're never lost. I'm not afraid to turn around - more than once. You can go anywhere, you just can't be afraid to turn around."
"Are you lost?"
He didn't know it, but phrasing the question just so brought me peace by the truck load. I said, "I may not know where I am, but I'm not lost."
So many times in life I've been in the middle of a new place, a big decision, something unfamiliar and scary where nothing is certain, and I've remembered my mother's words. "You can't be afraid to turn around."
One of my very favorite songs is the Old Shaker song, "Simple Gifts."
"When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed. To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come 'round right."
As much as we hate to admit it, much of life is trial and error. We know almost nothing with certainty, and life is notorious for slamming us upside the head with curve balls we didn't see coming. When I find myself spinning, reeling, and seeing stars from the most recent curve ball, I listen to this song, and miss my mother so much my bones hurt, and I tell myself, "to turn, turn will be my delight, till by turning, turning I come 'round right. Don't be afraid, don't be ashamed, don't be too proud to turn around."
"You're never lost if you know how to get home."
Home is a loose concept for me, for a lot of reasons that I won't go into here. For some people it's a city, or a house, and sometimes I'm jealous of those people, because I imagine that would be really nice. Home is a little more intangible for me, but I know it when I feel it.
But what I know, is that I'm fortunate to have a loose definition, a loose experience of home, because I will never be really lost. Home is deep in my soul - an encounter with Jesus, the God of all comforts, that is intimate and familiar. It is HIS voice that is home to me more than any other persons, and in His unfathomable grace and goodness He has made Himself available to me anytime, anywhere, through prayer, his Word, and the Holy Spirit.
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found, Was blind, but now I see."
All praise and glory to Jesus, I will never be lost again.
I don't know where you are in life, but wherever you are, if you are feeling a little lost, don't be afraid to turn around. There's no shame in it. You might not know exactly where you are, but you're never lost if you know how to get home.