Surprise Left Turns


Ten years ago this summer I arrived in Flushing, MI for the first time.   I was driving down Interstate 69 when all of the sudden my GPS told me to turn left down a narrow country road.  

I had just left my beloved house in St. Louis awaiting a signed contract of sale and I had my trusty Toyota Camry packed to the hilt with every last one of my belongings.  Whatever I couldn’t fit in this car had been sold.  I was headed to Boston to begin work as a consultant with Triad, but first needed to lead a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd course with my friend Autumn.  (Long story.  Just trust me on that one.  I was a good deal crazier back then.) 

I’d heard of Flushing and anticipated it to be a sizeable city. When my GPS commanded me to turn left, it dawned on me for the first time that I’d been thinking of Flushing, NY and not a rural community in the middle of Michigan. It is always good to look at your maps carefully in advance. But sometimes surprises can be good as well.

When I arrived Autumn was baking sweet potatoes for dinner.  “Darn,” she exclaimed, “the recipe calls for a teaspoon of dried orange peel.”  Imagine her surprise when I told her I actually had dried orange peel in my car…. And that I knew where it was.  I was crazier back then, but I was also more organized.

This past week has found me in Flushing, MI again with so many of the same folks who gifted me with kindness that difficult summer of transition.  I’ve visited here six times now—for 8 day stints at a time.  When I check in at the Witt’s residence, they just leave a key where I can find it and I shout, “Hello, I’m home!”  Last summer, I brought them the gift of Covid and, remarkably, they still let me come back.  I’ve learned to get excited about what is growing in Elaine and Bill’s massive organic garden.  I value my time with course host Hannah to and fro the 90 mile distance to DTW, and the way that she can solve any dilemma with a “can do” spirit.   This is the first trip where I’ve not been back to the two acre Brunner’s Christmas store in Frankenmuth, but that is because I’ve fallen in love with the Shiawassee Wildlife Reserve just north of town and right now it is calling to me more than the snow globes and pickle ornaments are.  Last Sunday morning, I walked five miles there and never met another human soul, but enjoyed the company of egrets and a very bold toad (See picture.  Toad was literally three inches from my camera and didn’t move.)

I suspect this might be my last trip to Flushing, at least for a while.  Hannah is now ready to lead these courses herself and is better prepared than I ever was… even when I carried dried orange peels in my car.  The CGS movement is growing here in lovely ways and there are a bunch of new faces mingled with the old.  But I’m grateful for the left turn that brought me here in the first place. Over the last decade, it has made me less afraid of the surprise turns in life that I am sure still lie ahead.  

May your week be just as adventurous as you dream it to be… and then hold maybe one sweet surprise more.


What I’m reading right now:

  • A Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Egan (Terrifying history of the Ku Klux Klan in the state of Indiana.  Extremely disturbing.  Would make a better essay than book.  Nevertheless very informative.  I was a history major in college and never knew this stuff.) 
  • When Bad Thinking Happens to Good People by Steven Nadler (On the topic of fake news and conspiracy thinking, et al.  Not far enough in to be able to give a recommendation or not.)
  • Daisy Jones and the Six: A Novel (For a book club with my sisters)
  • Harry Potter vol. 6 (With my niece and nephew.  Almost to the end!)

What I’m listening to:

Where I’m headed from here:

What’s on sale:

  • Everything at Ave Maria Press.  25% off.  Now till July 23.  Coupon code at check out: SUMMER23  Good to get lots of copies of great books before the new school year begins.