It had been a long, hot summer visiting my grandparents in Nebraska and we were headed back to our home in Washington State. It was the 70's and we were a rambunctious preacher's family in hand-me-downs, driving a '68 New Yorker and pulling a trailer across the country.
No, it wasn't a fun travel trailer, but a utilitarian box on wheels to hold all our stuff. We had proudly covered the wooden sides with silver paint, and emblazoned them with bold evangelistic messages: "Jesus Saves," "One Way," and "Jesus is Coming Soon." We figured that between that and the tracts we had on hand, we'd be sparking revival at every gas station and rest stop along the way.
I'm sure we were quite a sight: crammed to the gills with 4 kids and enough stuff to sink a battleship. With no air-conditioning, and with Coleman coolers on the floor of the back seat, we kids sat with our knees tucked up under our chins for 1,600 miles. Of course, no seat belts.
As we crossed the miles for Jesus, my dad in his chopper sideburns and my mom making sandwiches in the front seat, we tried to doze in the back by taking turns leaning our sweaty heads on each other.
It was probably about in Idaho that the highlight of the entire summer suddenly took place.
"KIDS! DON'T LOOK!" my mom shouted, at which we immediately popped up from our slumber like prairie dogs, to look for the forbidden sight.
There, passing us in the next lane, someone was mooning us from their car window!
WOW! Talk about a shocker! A big ol' backside squished up against the glass, communicating that person's opinion ever so eloquently. The car pulled up close and hung with us for awhile to make sure we caught the view, then sped away.
While my parents sputtered about the end of civilized behavior and what the world was coming to, we kids exchanged glances and mouthed, "Did you SEE that??" to each other. Our eyes were as wide as saucers and we could hardly contain our horrified grins.
"Kids, you didn't see that, did you?" mom turned to face us, sandwich knife in hand.
"See what? Nope, nuh uh. Didn't see it. What happened, anyway?" we gave her our most convincing looks and pretended to settle back to sleep. My sister, Katherine, and I scrunched down and debriefed silently.
Yes indeed, we'd seen it all, thanks to mom's alert warning not to look.
I remember a lot of things about that summer: the community pool, the evening badminton games, the fireflies and the coke floats. My parents did their best to make it a fun time for our family and we loved the carefree days in the small midwestern town. I really appreciate now how much work it was to take a family on vacation before fast-food restaurants were invented!
But the clearest memory of the summer, the one that's been logged into sacred family lore, happened when we least expected it - along the journey, and not at our destination spot at all.
For all the planning and work and time that went into the visit with my grandparents, it was the trip itself that made the best memory.
We're all on one — and as humans, our journeys take us to many places. We keep looking at the destinations as our goals — a new job, the kids' graduations, a new house, being completely organized . . . and those are really good things to aspire to.
But along the way, there is The Journey to get there - and so much to be experienced between here and where you think you ought to be.
Will you take a moment to appreciate the journey you're on?
It might not be a "fun" one — it might be a journey through illness, or job loss, or singleness or divorce. Or maybe you're smack in the middle of a wonderful adventure. But no matter where you are at, know that God is with you, surrounding you with His love, and giving you grace for each day.
Don't miss what God has for you right now — in this moment — while you're on the path to somewhere else.
It's my prayer for you today that you will be surprised and delighted by His care when you least expect it, and that your journey, wherever it takes you, will be filled with joy.
Have you been surprised by an unexpected experience lately? Has God shown up in serendipitous ways? I'd love for you to share in the comments today!