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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Car Trip (07/18/05)

TITLE: Circling Forward
By Debbie OConnor


It all started with a wrong turn outside the Valley Plaza.

It was 1976, and my mother had not been driving long. This was our first venture beyond the local grocery, school and church. Valley Plaza, our city’s mall, was on the opposite side of Bakersfield from our home. We took California Highway 58 West and merged with California 99 South and within minutes we saw the Valley Plaza signs, exited the highway and pulled straight into the parking lot. Mom hustled us through the mall purchasing school clothes. After hours of looking, fitting, walking and buying she treated us to an Orange Julius and we piled back into the Buick to head home.

Mom was nervous. She wasn’t sure how to get back on the Highway, having never driven it herself. She read her directions and looked around frantically for a sign to get her on track. Being a typically helpful know-it-all eight-year-old, I searched too. Then I saw a familiar sight.

“Look, Mommy, it’s Skaggs!” I exclaimed, distracting her. We shopped at Skaggs Drugstore all the time, and there it was. “We’re almost home.”

‘Kathy, that isn’t our Skaggs. Now please, just let me think.”

A few minutes later, Mom found what she was looking for -- California Highway 99. Unfortunately, she failed to note that she was heading south, toward Los Angeles, rather than north, toward Highway 58.

What should have been a fifteen-minute drive across town turned into a half hour excursion into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Finally, Mom was able to exit, turn around and retrace her drive to get us home.

I thought the whole thing was a grand adventure. I loved the mountains and never doubted we would eventually get home. My mother was truly frightened. She wasn’t so sure she’d get us home. My five-year-old brother was scarred for years.

The next summer my family loaded the Buick to visit Nanny and Paw Paw in Colorado. We rode hundreds of miles through flat farmland peppered with very similar windmills. My brother was convinced we were driving in circles and would NEVER get to Colorado. Of course, coming from a family of jokesters my brother was encouraged in this belief by me and my father. We provoked him to tears before we finally reached the Rockies and the game forcibly ended. This happened year after year until Jimmy was old enough to understand a map.

Sometimes, like Jimmy, I feel my life is going in circles. I struggle with the same sin or problem repeatedly until I am provoked to tears. I cry out to God, “Why am I still circling in the desert? Can’t we take a shortcut?”

I am deceived. Like my brother, I see the familiar landscape and think it means I am making no progress. The enemy taunts me as we teased Jimmy. “Look Kathy, here you are again. You aren’t getting anywhere. Why don’t you just quit?” But surely, steadily, my Father is circling me forward. Many of my past sins are so far away from me now they don’t seem like they were ever part of my life. Others loom before me as the mighty Rockies loomed before my family on the way to Denver. I don’t always understand God’s ways -- why He delivers me completely in some areas and leaves me to struggle with others -- but I know He has His reasons and that they are good. Good for me, good for others and good for His name on Earth.

I am on this road trip with my Father. I trust Him to get me where He wants me to go. If He chooses the scenic route, who am I to argue? This thirty-seven-year-old woman is no know-it-all. God doesn’t need my help!

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

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Member Comments
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Cheri Hardaway 07/25/05
Awesome! I love the simple but effective description. And the spiritual truth illustrated was so comforting, as I myself continue to circle forward! Blessings, Cheri
Crista Darr07/25/05
I am so encouraged by this piece! So often "I see the familiar landscape and think it means I am making no progress." What a comfort to remember that God is in the driver's seat, and our destination is more beautiful than we can imagine.
Christine Sparrow07/26/05
Dear writer, regarding..."I don’t always understand God’s ways -- why He delivers me completely in some areas and leaves me to struggle with others"....
I don't think He leaves us to struggle with others, I think He leaves us to "overcome." Faith and works are like the motion of paddling in a single canoe. If we only paddle on one side we end up going round in a circle. He works something in us, then He stands back and watches us to see how we will work it back out to others. Thing is, we don't see this when we are solely concentrating on what it is we CAN'T do. Bit like the saying...."Say you can or say you can't, either way, you'll be right.
Beth Muehlhausen07/26/05
Enjoyed this application, having traveled through many extended and/or scary road trips myself....!!! It's good to remember that they all are leading somewhere, even when we feel we are lost. God knows where we are. :-)
Nina Phillips07/27/05
The ending made me feel like the story of your mother in the beginning, in relationship to your experience in the spiritual. Nicely written. God bless ya, littlelight
Linda Watson Owen07/28/05
What a great analogy. Inspiring and well written!
Kyle Chezum07/29/05
Well written. Good job!
Pat Guy 07/29/05
A very good build up to the message of Hope in our Lord Who promises to never leave us. Good message - Good job!
Cyndie Odya-Weis07/30/05
GREAT JOB!! This reminded me how we learn more from the journey than the destination. It also reminded me that our lives are indeed God's journey- and we're just along for a joy ride. I LOVE how you "over-played" some family nuances with sort of elevated language- I bet your family is laughing! THANKS
Maxx .07/30/05
I've driven those Bakersfield roads. Seemed very real to me. Good writing and analogy.
Phyllis Inniss08/01/05
I enjoyed your writing. Knowing that God is in charge and will always find a solution allows us peace. He has left His peace with us, if we will only seek it.
Deborah Porter 08/02/05
Hi Debbie. Just popping in very quickly to let you know that "Circling Forward" was a semi-finalist in the Car Trip Challenge. So well done! Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Val Clark08/03/05
One of my favourite verses. Great devotional piece in which the story and devotion is not forced. Can really identify with getting 'lost' in your home town.