It’s the Detours that Tell the Story

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Diana T June 2016My entire adult life consists of a series of detours. Following my mother’s careful instructions, both verbal and non-verbal, I headed into adulthood with 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. Easy, right? 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 like myself at all. 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 and incredibly naïve. I saw my “doctor,”(a missionary friend who lived out in the bush, forty miles away) exactly three times during that pregnancy. I gathered what information 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 18 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 just weeks after the start 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 19.

What the heck?

We loved this young man but believed her to be too young, with too much living still to do before making such a huge commitment. But their love was strong and true and determined. So we gave her a wedding, and to help make that happen, I opened a small business in our home doing flowers! It was a BIG surprise to all of us, but a fun, good thing for the next seven years.

Somewhere in there, our second daughter graduated from high school and began college life. Two years later, when our son was a senior in high school, I began taking classes at our local seminary, encouraged by our pastors and a large group of friends/students in a Bible study I led at our church. Seminary was most definitely not on my mother’s radar, or mine.

What the heck?

The rest, as they say, is history. I experienced a clear call to ministry while in seminary, and graduated with an MDiv in four years. I took extra classes to be ordained in our denomination and then did parish work for the next 17 years, much of it difficult and complicated. ALL of it good.

All through those years, there were multiple, “what the heck?” moments, both personally and professionally. There were huge changes in staff, a major building campaign, the deaths of my father and father-in-law, one of my brothers, and that lovely young man who married our daughter. There was cancer surgery for my husband, and serious blood-clotting disorders for both of us.

There were also some detours that carried a very different kind of emotional freight—the marriages of our other two children, the births of our eight grandchildren, the re-marriage of our eldest daughter to a good and loving man, the celebration of fifty years with my husband. Professionally, I enjoyed working with gifted colleagues, watching loved parishioners flourish, walking closely with dear ones through both trauma and celebration, and then beginning two new ministries AFTER I retired from parish work.

At this point in the journey, I’m thinking the detours pretty much tell the story of my entire life. Weaving in, around and through every single one of them is this truth: not one was wasted. Not one. Each and every detour brought with it sweet evidence of God’s grace, even the painful ones. Each and every one taught me about God, about myself, about work, about life, about faith.

Maybe, just maybe, going straight ahead is not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe it’s the sudden and unexpected twists that help us tell a richer, more interesting story. Maybe it’s the detours that make the life.

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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Comments

  1. Such wisdom – the detours are the life! I love my 5-year plans and dreaming about the future. But, in the end it’s the unexpected, daily, big-small moments that I most treasure. These twists and turns that are forming my life.

    • pastordt says:

      I’m a big believer in plans, Annie. I just hold them loosely a lot of the time! Love this line: “it’s the unexpected, daily, big-small moments that I most treasure.” Amen, amen.

  2. pastordt says:

    Amen, Nancy!

  3. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Looking back on my life from the perspective of early retirement, I can add a hearty AMEN!! We, too, have been blind-sided by some detours, and you’re right: God doesn’t waste a one. We’ve learned much and experienced God’s grace in abundant ways, just as you’ve said. I’m praising God here as a result of your story, Diana–for what he’s done in your family, our family, and countless others. The detours did indeed make our lives!

  4. “The detours are the story” – I just love this! Such wise words. And so true when I look back on my own life. What a great way to think about detours in life, I will be keeping this in mind as I face detours in my own life 🙂

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you, Keri! Although detours continue to be a ‘surprise!!,’ they so often become the next way forward. Strange, but oh-so-true. Blessing on your journey.

  5. Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

    Thanks for the glimpse into your life. I so enjoyed getting to know you and your story of detours so much. What a gift… Helen xo

  6. I identify with several of your specific detours, Diana, and appreciate the reminder you’ve given me that those detours ARE the story. I am learning from your words, knowing there will be more detours ahead.

    • pastordt says:

      I think you can count on that, Debby. Life is full of surprises, many of them causing a detour of one sort or another. Blessings on the journey – twisty as it often is.

  7. I have a feeling your words are going to be a driving force for me the next few months, Diana.

    • pastordt says:

      Care to elaborate on that, Marilyn? Praying for you on that winding trail.

      • I say your words may be a guiding force because I occasionally slip back into thinking the detours were just scratches on the surface of my life and maybe, if I just give it enough time, I can find the right product to erase them or make them less noticeable. While in this mindset, I settle for a lesser story, a SAFER story. This sets up an internal conflict because I’m violating what I know to be true about the stories God allows into our lives, that they have great power to set others free (after, as you say, the initial grieving and processing). Hope that makes sense.

        • pastordt says:

          Yes, that makes sense. Very wise words, Marilyn. And often a hard-won insight. Thank you very much.

  8. Absolutely, the detours are the story. What a great reminder! It can take a very long time to accept this and stop being disappointed because you don’t know all the end points and don’t have control. Loved reading all this, Diana!

    • pastordt says:

      Acceptance is a huge part of it, I think. And sometimes along the way — as you know all too well, I have a hunch — you have to grieve the straight ahead you thought was waiting for you and those you love. There is room for that grief, friend. And it cannot be rushed. Eventually, thank God, it does transform into forward motion again and grace shows up even in the thick of the confusion.

  9. I live 4,843 miles from where I grew up – and some days that just seems so crazy! And some days it suits me just fine 😉 I was never going to be a teacher, except I just accepted a teaching job and life does seem to BE the detours, thank you for sharing your stories Diana.

    • pastordt says:

      Oh, wow. That’s a lotta detours, Morag. But I’m glad they’re good ones. Enjoy that teaching gig!

  10. I completely agree with you that the detours make the story! I am in the midst of a detour right now career-wise and I can’t wait to have a story like yours where it all makes sense in the end and God used it for good! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • pastordt says:

      Many blessings as you find your way on an unexpected turn in the road, Joanna. And you’re welcome!

  11. Saskia Wishart says:

    This is such a gift to read Diana, and a perfect reminder that each “what the heck” moment is gift that creates the story. There were so many moments you touched on here that make me think, wow I want to hear more! Thank you for bringing your story and wisdom to this space.

  12. “Maybe going straight ahead is not all it’s cracked up to be.”
    Smiling and nodding and ever so thankful for this sweet story of your life.
    I do think there’s something to be said for how we receive the detours that makes the difference between a spirit of bitterness and regret — and this gracious outcome that is blessing my socks off today. Thank you for your example of open-handed acceptance of God’s sovereignty in all the detours.

    • pastordt says:

      Amen, Michele. I was already at too many words, so didn’t touch on that all-important truth: our attitude does make a difference. I’m so glad you found blessings here – thanks for letting me know.

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