When Life Hands You a Detour

by | Sep 22, 2014 | Encouragement, Trust, Uncategorized


My boy and I, we switch passenger seats in cars at Trader Joes, a detour on our way to Savannah, Georgia. We’re moving our daughter into her dorm room, stopping for her favorite snacks.

I grab my pile of books and stack them beside my feet but I never crack one of those spines open. Instead, I am a scribe ready for mental dictation, translating God’s providence through the minutes my daughter drives into adulthood.

The back seat stacks with the contents from a small chest in her bedroom; years of wishes granted by relatives, friends and the result of hard work in summertime – linens, monogrammed towels and coffee cups. Even what is secondhand holds special memories. Plastic bins that once held crayons and markers for afternoon spurts of creativity when she was seven are now filled with dishes for late night study breaks.

She fidgets with dials searching on the radio for songs that make her fingers dance on the steering wheel. We talk of artists, their lives and the way lyrics speak to us; laugh about the absurdity when they don’t.

Time blurs past my window making home a distant memory as we push pavement south.


Like waves in the ocean, I will never again capture these moments in our relationship. But I’ll have ripples of remembrance. Of the eyelash curtain brushing her cheek while she napped peacefully on the couch and the way she crumples fists in frustration watching her brother dunk the last Oreo in a glass of milk.

Mother’s retrace the lines that lead us back to clarity.

That God trusts us to care for His children for such a time as this.

Surrender is the way of showing we’re trustworthy for what He has next.

After eating  our last supper of salmon salad on white and savoring homemade gingersnaps,  we pull into the parking lot, through throngs of parents with students who are pushing lime green buckets overflowing with rugs, flat screens and lamps.

When we open our doors, climb out and stretch, it’s as if someone turned up the heat in a room of stagnant water, sucking all my energy with it. Moments later, as we unpack and move into an empty room void of color, sweat drips down my back and H saturates two shirts like he’s just been swimming laps.

And all I can do is mop and dust and clean toilets to make the room smell of welcome.

We wait for her roommate but she never shows up. So we delay decorating walls, laying out rugs and the purchase of a shower curtain. And book another night in the hotel room; make a meal of free drinks and snacks.

And this is a metaphor for our family over the last six months. Expectancy about the future fuels the journey but details change the emotional climate, delay gratification and threaten to suck joy right out of us.


“What he asks of us, in the way of surrender, and obedience, and desire, and trust, is all comprised in this one word: waiting on Him, waiting for his salvation,” writes Andrew Murrary.

And wait we must because what other choice have we?

The next day, we leave our first born standing in the parking lot of a new city without knowing anyone; watch her become a distant silhouette among strangers in the rear view mirror, her new home half empty. And I leave my books in her car parked in Savannah. Instead of reading, I take mental dictation about the way God is parenting us.

In the same way we want to rescue our daughter, He knows that isn’t what is best for us. He allows uncomfortable detours in order to remember we are dependent. And the next time we face unexpected situations, trust becomes intuitive knowing Peace will direct us.


The ability to surrender and trust God deeply is more valuable than instant gratification.

Parting is such sweet sorrow isn’t just an oxymoron for lovers but for mothers letting go of their children.

Are you in a season of waiting for breakthrough? What are you trusting God for? Let’s encourage one another in the comments.

Linking with Laura and Kelli, Jennifer and Holley.


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  1. Angie

    Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them- Isaiah 42:9

    He is working things our for a re-positioning, divine relationships, a new season. Loneliness felt is actually a longing for more, the place you are in is no longer the place he wants you to be. Step into your new season.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love that verse of scripture in Isaiah, thank you so much for sharing it in response to this story. It’s a good one that speaks of hope with bright perspective, yes? And your encouragement is a gift.

  2. Laura Rath

    This spoke to me Shelly. Surrender and waiting…I’m struggling with that right now. I’m trusting God to bring healing to my daughter. I am so thankful for the improvement we’ve seen, but the setbacks and relapses continue and there is still a long way to go. Waiting on Him…

    • Shelly Miller

      Laura, what joy to know my journey is a shoulder of empathy for you. I’m thankful you let me know, prayed for you as soon as I read your comment.

  3. Tracey

    She is going to SCAD?!!! That is one awesome school. I feel some of your trepidation, but they need light there too. I wish I could have afforded it but God knew better. There are other Christians on campus. If she needs to get away I am in Marietta and have a guest room. Hugs!!! Go eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant and enjoy some family time.

    • Shelly Miller

      It is such a wonderful school Tracey and getting her there is also part of our faith journey. She texted me yesterday with photos of her work and my heart is full of joy knowing she is in a place cultivating her gifts and the art that is her life. Praying she finds Christian community there.

  4. Glenda Childers

    I remember that moment so well. Praying for your heart, too, sweet Shelly.


    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Glenda, your prayers are a gift.

  5. Pamela Kuhn

    I had the privilege of my daughter staying at home for her college years and attending college where my husband works. She’ll be married December 20th and I’m sure there will be many private tears. Praying God will make the transition easy for you. ~Pamela

    • Shelly Miller

      My best friend’s oldest is getting married in a few weeks and we are both empathizing with each others seasons of letting go. They are all hard but needed. Wouldn’t want it any other way truthfully. Thanks Pamela, appreciate you.

  6. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh! This so tugged at this mama;’s heartstrings with a bit of a melancholy melody. I was just saying to Michael yesterday that I cried when Sheridan went to kindergarten. I submitted an article about it to a national magazine, and it made it to the top, till the publisher said, “Who would cry over that?” But Mothers feel poignancy at a heart-level over every new milestone in a child’s life, even if the child is able to live on her own. The line about leaving Murielle in that parking lot really got to me. But I knew down-deep she is not alone, and that her silouette is cut from strong cloth, a fabric woven intricately by the parents and God she loves. He’s with her, Shelly. And He’s with you and H and Harrison. He has detoured you for His purposes. And really, if you are following Him, which I know you faithfully are, there really *are* no detours. Every twist and turn is guided and foreseen by His providential hand. Granted, we have ideas about what roadmap will lead us most quickly and conveniently to our destination, but maybe the scenic route has really been His will all the time. Following, ultimately, is a lot easier than trying to read a map anyway (especially when you are trying to drive too! :-). He will take you to breathtaking scenic views via some rugged terrain at times, but oh the exhilaration of that, really. I am loving how God is beginning to unfold His perfect plan for you. He’s got your life and Murielle’s right in the palm of His omnicient, omnipotent hand. I love you!

    • Shelly Miller

      Compassion is one of your best gifts Lynn, I’m grateful for the way God made you. Thanks for your lovely words and heartfelt encouragement.

    • Jillie

      Certainly could not have said it better than this, Lynni! Right on! Hope your words are of great comfort to Shelly and Family during this time of waiting…and detours. Shelly’s words of pulling out of that parking lot, with Murielle in the rear-view mirror got to me too! I well remember leaving my son in the parking lot of Cambridge’s Bible College–how I cried, trying not to show it. He looked so forlorn, and so alone. I worried and stewed every day until that first weekend when he came home. Sat in his empty room, on his bed, praying for him. It’s hard, isn’t it?!?

  7. Anita Mathias

    I am trying to form good writing habits and to get into the habit of writing a lot every day!
    AND I am looking forward to meeting you in Oxford or London!

    • Lynn Morrissey

      Anita, I didn’t realize that you live in Oxford! We were there last summer (2nd tim and 4th time in England), and we loved it. YOu have a gorgeous, historical city. I especially loved seeing Holman Hunt’s painting of Christ in Keble College Chapel. You will adore having Shelly so close by.

      • Anita Mathias

        Look me up next time, Lynn!

      • Anita Mathias

        It IS a beautiful city, isn’t it?

  8. Lisa notes...

    Oh, this is breaking my heart. 🙁 I remember so clearly the days of leaving our daughters behind at college while we drove off. And watching them drive away from our home later, to go back to their new homes at college. I know this is how life is supposed to go though; independence is what we desire for our children. And that makes us depend even more on God for ourselves and for them!

    This is so true: “Surrender is the way of showing we’re trustworthy for what He has next.” I’ll think more about that today….

    Praying for your family through all these many transitions!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for your prayers Lisa. We’re going to visit her this weekend and I’m happy to still be living in the country so I can do that. She’s doing great, working hard and making her way. Mom is probably having a more difficult time than she is.

  9. Amber Cadenas

    Such bittersweetness, beauty, unresolvedness of circumstance and resolvedness of heart to trust here. I don’t know why, really, but when I read “After eating our last supper…” it brought images to mind of the first last supper story – of the mix of unresolvedness and resolve, the bitter and the sweet, the fear and the trust. The waiting.

    Your heart’s resolve here, even if it wavers throughout the days, as it might, is so lovely, Shelly. I am learning from you, too, as I am also in my own season of waiting. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m learning a lot about how God uses waiting to woo us to him Amber. All of creation waits for his hand to move . . .for rain, food, breath . . .its daunting on some days, the way I’ve taken that all for granted. Glad to have you walking with me, you’re good company.

  10. Natalie

    Sweet sorrow. It accompanies so many of the steps of mothering. You think we’d get used it. At least I do, but I don’t!

    Waiting for breakthrough. Yes. Weary of walking the same path, back and forth, of accepting where God has placed me, then whining and rejecting it because it just it’s not what I want. Waiting for the breakthrough that says, “Not my will” or “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me…” Transformation is a slow process.

    • Shelly Miller

      Timing is such a curious thing isn’t it? I would love just one small glimpse of the way God sees time knowing it is so different from the way we see it. But then, it might kill me to see it. And perhaps the gift in the sorrow we feel in motherhood is that we get a glimpse of how God feels toward us. Empathy is often healing and revelatory.

  11. Nancy Ruegg

    First, the bold-faced statement half way through your post hit me between the eyes: “Surrender is the way of showing we’re trustworthy for what He has next.” Such a wise, forward-looking perspective on the difficult discipline of surrender. Thank you, Shelley.

    Second, a short story that might make you smile! Our second child and only daughter had just gone off to college. I missed her terribly. Little Brother was now the only child left at home. One morning Steve discovered a dish by the sink (not rinsed and put in the dishwasher) with bits of cheese and spaghetti hardened to the surface. After years of hearing “Not me!” over such infractions of household expectations, Steve calmly said, “We finally know who did this!”

    • Shelly Miller

      You made me smile Nancy. Love that story and it sounds familiar. *wink*

  12. Alecia Simersky

    We seem to be in the same seasons of life. In the middle. Waiting for what’s next, expectant, trying to surrender to God’s plan and timing, but wanting desperately for answers and action NOW. Your past couple of posts have encouraged me during this season more than you know. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m honored to know you were encouraged here Alecia, sorry I’m so late in responding.

  13. dukeslee

    Oh, friend. You have pulled every possible heartstring of mine — heartstrings linked to love, to change, to the growing-up of our babies, the difficulty of things not going the way we wanted, the sorrow of saying goodbye.

    You know I am praying for you through all of this. I am amazed at how you can speak with such clarity, even as you are in the midst of it all.

  14. Devi Abraham Duerrmeier

    Beautiful story and words, Shelly, and it brought back my own memories of standing on the pavement watching my mother leave (Arkansas for our family home in the Philippines) and my own conflicted emotions of surrender.

    • Shelly Miller

      Lovely to see you here Devi, I was just thinking about you recently.

  15. Bev Duncan

    It seems like yesterday that I was dropping my firstborn off at college. She’s now 26 and a wonderful teacher. How true what you said about uncomfortable detours leading us into dependency…just where we need to be! So glad I popped over from Holley’s link up 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Bev, thanks for dropping by from Holley’s last week. I’m late in responding but wanted you to know I appreciate your comment. It’s good to have someone ahead of me weighing in from experience.

  16. Ginger Harrington

    Oh yes, it is an emotional thing to leave a daughter at college. Then when things don’t go as expected, even harder. I love the line “The ability to surrender and trust God deeply is more valuable than instant gratification.” Definitely one to remember.

  17. kelli woodford

    I can certainly identify with wanting to “rescue” your daughter … And yet finding it a perfect doorway to tiptoe (or be dragged, right? 😉 ) into a greater trust.
    Thinking of you and yours in this transitional time, Shelly. Thanks for sharing with us at Unforced Rhythms.

  18. Sarah Donegan

    It is hard to imagine my 6 and 8 year olds leaving, but I know that will happen in the blink of an eye. Be brave Mama!
    I so agree about detours. When I get too big for my britches, God has a way of reminding me who is in charge!

  19. Laura Boggess

    Oh, Shelly. I cannot imagine. And yet, this moment will come all too soon for this mamma too! Yes, trusting God to care for our children is difficult sometimes, but also, oh, so freeing. I needed these words tonight.

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