Life Lesson #187 ~ This Is Your Exit

Someone once asked me, "Why do you always insist on taking the hard road?"  I replied, "Why do you assume I see two roads?"  ~ Unknown

Way back when, back in the day as some may say, in a galaxy not so far away, when I  was a little girl (a long, long time ago I might add) road trips were epic. Not only did they usually entail days upon days of driving, but there were always stops along the way. Back then what kid didn't get excited about stopping at a 7 11 for a Big Gulp or pulling into a Mobile gas station for an R.C. Cola, a Coke or a Slush Puppie? Add a moon pie, some boiled peanuts and an O'Henry bar and you had it made big time. Plus we rode in style back then, right? I'm talking about the old Ford LTD's, Volkswagen vans; and one of my favorites, the Dodge Dart. We had them all and in each one we made more than one road trip. It was just the three of us packing up the car with suitcases and a cooler full of food and drinks. I can remember my dad and his AAA triptiks. That was always an exciting day, picking up our directions to places we had yet to see. It was usually the middle of the night when our big day arrived. Daddy carried me out, yawning, in my PJ's and slippers, a blanket, pillow and half a dozen furry friends in tow. I'd  share the back seat with our dogs as we piled in to hit the open road. I loved hearing my dad call out as we loaded up, "Hurry Up! We're burnin'daylight!" Or more accurately, moonlight. Those were the days. Gas was cheap, seat belts were optional (although unwise) and the windows were usually down. I loved road trips. I have always enjoyed the feeling of excitement, knowing we were off on a new adventure and carefree. As a little girl, mama would fill up a bag full of crayons, paper, pencils, coloring books, comics, library books, Golden Book cassette tapes and story books and card games. I'd be entertained for hours and hours. We'd sing along to the radio together, play games and talk about our upcoming adventures. We'd listen to stories over the backseat speakers, laugh, giggle and stop and rest, unpack our cooler and then pile back in the car ready to do it all over again heading onward toward our destination. When out on the open road our family motto was simple: No loyygaging! Although I have to tell you, I was guilty as sin most of the time of this very thing. But my daddy, being the man he is, was always kind and gracious despite my need, Heaven's to Betsy, to fiddle-fattle around. He'd gently remind me, while we weren't in a big hurry, we could rest when we died. And this particular day was NOT that day. One of the best feelings I've taken away with me from our family road trip to this very day is being together as a family. And knowing, no matter how far away as we go, home will always waiting for us after we've gone the distance. Looking back on the days and nights I spent in the back seat of our car, looking out the window, daydreaming and surrounded by the company of my family, I found myself. I found Jesus, singing to the songs playing on the radio and the cassette tapes we brought along. I found adventure as each mile passed and I found peace in the love I witnessed between my parents, beautiful and strong. And ultimately I found hope, an assurance that while home was in the distance, it was never truly that far away as long as we had each other. What I can tell you about our numerous road trips as a child is that each one gave me the full understanding behind a quote William Bolitho explains this way. "Adventure must start with running away from home." And that is exactly what we did, as often as we could. We ran toward new beginnings and new adventures with open arms in an old blue Ford LTD, a full tank of gas, a packed car and a AAA triptik pointing the way.

Life if you think about it, is much the same as a road trip. We are moving forward, stepping backwards, leaving home, going home, setting off on a adventure, running away from something to something else and running from one person or to someone else. The problem with this is "if you don't know what you want, there is no exit." And that can be complicated. We want to follow after God's heart, after His direction but our human nature isn't always so cooperative. Even as an optimist, I can doubt not only myself, but God too. Seriously, looking at some of the places and the exits God has offered me along the way, I've sat scratching my head a few times. Flipping through many questionable stops charted out on His triptik has been simply puzzling. But like Alice, the puzzle comes together, eventually. See I may not always feel I'm the best person for the job and many more times I'm just plain scared of change. Either way, if God has called me and brought me to it, then He will lead me through it. It's a hard lesson to learn but one that's so very helpful once we accept, "God is going to send you places you don't feel qualified to go. But God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." (dailyscrolls) Think about this: How many times do we just start walking away only to end up running away from God? Maybe we're not happy with our present circumstances. Maybe we can't see God's plan over yonder so to speak because we're too busy hiding from Him in a game of hide and seek over here.  And sadly, before you can shake two sticks, you've ended up stuck behind a tractor on a one lane dirt road. We can hear God calling, "Where y' at?" But we can't see past our fear and worry to sit a spell, to wait for Him to guild us, to open up a pathway, to clear the road and to eventually reveal our exit number up a ahead, now can we?

This is what happened to Alice, did it not? She's continuously looking for an exit, a way home all through her adventures in Wonderland. But it isn't until Alice finally begins to understand after a few tries, "Every exit is an entry somewhere else."(Curiano) Alice found this out first hand after she fell down the rabbit's hole to be honest. Upon meeting the doorknob, Alice is told, "Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction." Now this is sound advice, even if confusing in the moment. A lot like my dad's triptiks, she's asked to trust the process. Given the situation Alice is quite turned around, and in her confusion and hast, she doesn't pay attention as she should and ends up missing her exit. This eventually leads Alice to her chaotic and rather adventurous escapades throughout Wonderland. Which truly goes to show us even though and despite how many times we make the wrong choices along the way, God is still able use them....Eventually leading us to the right place after providing and handing us an alternate triptik from just inside the glove compartment. What does all this mean? Well, it means we're taking the long way around most of the time. Seriously this is where the rubber meets the road, where we fully and completely understand God's grace and mercy. Owls For Orphans comes to mind when I think of just how wide God's love for you and me is. Think of this, "How beautiful is it that God pursues us when we are running from Him."

There's a song I love to hear, to sing when in worship, praising my God and King. It goes like this, "Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me." And this is exactly how God's love works! See when we are weak, when our strength runs out, when our spiritual and emotional fuel tank is on empty God fills us. No He may not fill up our tank completely at the time; however, He does give us exactly what we need, when we need it for as long as it takes to get us to our exit. What I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt and without fail is that Jesus is always there with me, guiding me, and directing me. In my life, even if I'm acting as if I've got no good sense at all, God is a constant GPS in my life. I may have banned Him to the backseat for the moment, in my haste, but still He's always assuring me if I'll just follow His instructions already mapped out for me, sitting in the glove box, I'll be directed in the right direction. I just have to stop running, stop hiding, stop complaining about the road trip He's planned out ahead of time, asking continuously, are we there yet and start trusting Him. What I have found, along each and every stop, the back roads and the exits up and down the highway we call life is something pretty amazing actually. See, it's never too late to say, "Jesus I need you and I've been running for so long, but I'm broken and I need you now. Please save me, please show me the way." And this is exactly what happened to Alice. She had to stop running away and face the madness, take the exit she wasn't at all sure about and trust that home was waiting on the other side. This is how our lives play out as well. Oswald Chambers, puts it like this. "Faith never knows where it's being led, but it knows and loves the One who is leading." And this is truly what life, the road trips, the map and all those triptiks are all about. When it comes to walking out the front door in faith, taking our first step toward a new destination we must be willing to risk it all, to hold nothing back. And in those moments as we see our first mile go by, that's when fear is absolutely overcome by faith and we know the journey ahead is going to be both challenging and amazing if we'll only sit back and enjoy the ride.

John 13:7 says, "You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will." As a child growing up I looked forward to our road trips, to navigating the open road and finding our way in whatever direction we were heading. I had no fear because I was not alone in our journey. I trusted whatever our destination was, my dad had it under control. He knew the way, each and every exit to take, every turn to make simply because he had his triptik directing our expedition and outing into the unknown. I also understood that even if we became lost, we'd still find our way there. I learned in the backseat, windows rolled down, singing, daydreaming and watching the hills roll by that getting lost wasn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, "some beautiful paths can't be discovered without getting lost." (Erol Ozan) Because of this, as an adult, I'm fully aware adventure is just as much a part of my growth and an equal component spiritually, mentally and emotionally to my physical well-being. I don't suggest running from God, as this can lead to additional, unnecessary bumps and scratches. I might however suggest getting your daily exercise in by running away from Satan as fast as you can, and walking, if not speed walking directly into the arms of Jesus when in doubt sitting on the side of the road with a flat. As the woman I am today, standing before a God who loves me just as I am, a sinner saved by grace and a terrible backseat driver at that, I'm thankful for all the pit stops along the way. I still find myself questioning His directions at times, hiding in the back seat, broken down on the side of the highway less than a mile or two from my exit. But I'm learning through trial and error to wait on God, to hope in Him, to stay close to Him, and to trust in Him with all my heart, for all my needs. And instead of hiding from God, I'm learning more and more each day and with each passing mile to run to Him, not away from Him. My advice? Well when you're cruising along the highway, just enjoying the ride and you begin approaching an unknown exit sign that is clearly marked on your map as your exit... take it. Don't hesitate, don't question the directions, just go, exit and keep moving in the direction God has highlighted on your triptik. Much like Alice, and her encounter with the Cheshire Cat, you must figure out and know where you're going or the exit clearly won't matter. That said, if you trust God completely, fully, and you trust He knows the direction your road trip is taking you, you won't be confused when the Cheshire Cat holds out both his arms and legs, pointing in all directions now will you? And why? Well because you know the way, and you know this is your exit. You know in your heart it's time to stop running from God. And even if you have to turn down a darkly lit road with no idea where it's taking you in the end, God knows and that's enough. As Aslan remarks in the Chronicles of Narnia I feel Alice, just as you and I need to pause, to stop doubting our value, and stop running from who we are.  Maybe it's time to get back to those epic road trips? Maybe it's way past time to climb into that old blue, 4 door LTD and hit the road, a cooler packed in the backseat, the windows down, the radio blaring and the triptik leading the way? After all some of the best days we've ever spent have been down an old dirt road, right?

And so today as Life Lesson #187 ~ This Is Your Exit winds down all the old dirt roads your soul occupies, please never forget this simple truth: We have to be willing to go further than two hoots and a holler if we truly want to experience not only adventure but real, undeniable grace. Each day, with each new path, direction, triptik, start your day with one simple prayer, "Lord, lead the way." Then without hesitation, without even as much as an oh 'geez Louise', and definitely without question or delay, turn your eyes toward the exit sign ahead of you. Whatever number it may be, put your foot on the gas and go confidently in that direction with a heart full of courage. This is what Alice did.  She jumped... she didn't just fall down that rabbit's hole. She ran, she questioned, and she found her way back home. She understood, much as the Cheshire Cat explained, "Every adventure starts with a first step." After all of our adventurers so far in Wonderland together I do believe Lewis Carroll was absolutely right, the best gift you can give yourself is a lifetime of adventures. And in my last few words here today, I believe Proverbs 4:23 to be exceedingly true, "be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life." As my Southern upbringing has taught me, "Remember who you are and where you come from." Trust He knows who you are too, where you come from and where you're going. The road you and I may travel may not be easy, and it may honestly always be the hard road but it's our journey, our path and definitely our road trip. We own it, God wrote it and together we travel it. Trust His timing, trust His promise, trust His directions, trust His answers and trust His leading. "He knows the way, because He is the way." Remember that and you'll always find your way back home.

"Because the greatest part of the road trip isn't arriving at your destination. It's all the wild stuff that happens along the way. " ~ Curiano



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