It’s the Detours That Tell the Story — SheLoves, June 2016

This month’s theme at SheLoves pretty much had me stymied. The deadline came in the midst of an incredibly busy ten days and I put it off as long as I could possibly do so and still hope to get published! When I did finally find the time and internal space to sit and write it out, I was stunned by how fast it came. The doubly-worded theme of “Detours:What the Heck?” became the narrative thread for my entire life. Maybe for yours, too? You can start here and then follow the links over to read the rest.

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I suppose you could say my entire adult life consists of a series of detours. Following my mother’s careful instructions, both verbal and non, I headed into adulthood with one — no, make that two — primary goals: graduate from college and find a husband.

I think my mother imagined a life for me that looked a lot like hers: early marriage, children, caring for a home, volunteering at church and in the community. And that’s the direction I was heading when I married my husband at the tender age of twenty, midway through my senior year of university.

But, what the heck?

This guy came from a very different denominational space than I did, having been raised in an historic peace church. He was registered as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war. So, instead of moving into a neighborhood near my mother and replicating her life, I found myself on a freighter, headed to Africa after eight months of marriage, fulfilling his two years of alternate military service.

Well, okay then. I’ll adjust. I’ll just take those same ideas I inhaled from my family and my church and transplant them to this new continent. And I suppose in some ways, I did. I kept our home tidy (most of the time), I got to know my neighbors, I went to Bible study and church. But I also taught secondary school, something that had never been on my radar. Ever. And I had fun doing it, too. Maybe this little detour could be a good thing?

And then I began to feel kind of funny — nauseous and tired and basically not myself. I described my symptoms in a letter home and my mother burst out laughing when she received it. “You’re pregnant,” she wrote back to me!

What the heck?

I was young, incredibly naïve, and saw my ‘doctor,’ (a missionary friend who lived out in the bush, forty miles away, over a very rutted dirt road) exactly three times during that pregnancy, gathering what info I could from another friend’s old nursing textbook on pregnancy. (I do not recommend this kind of reading to young, impressionable soon-to-be mamas. Not only were there written descriptions of every single thing that could go wrong with pregnancy and delivery, but photos!)

Six months later, we returned home and over the course of the next eighteen years , my life began to fall into familiar patterns, given my particular family and faith tradition. I had two more babies, close together. I volunteered at their schools, I worked at our church in any way they would let me, I found a community organization I enjoyed.

And then my eldest daughter fell in love with a good friend’s fine son, a man who endured a second round of childhood cancer within weeks of their burgeoning romance. Midway through her freshman year of college, she came to us and said they wanted to be married that next summer; she was barely nineteen.

What the heck?

 

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