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I get lost often, so often it’s a family joke. And I hate getting lost. We joke about it, but I am filled with both desperation and a sinking sense of failure each time it happens. I find my way eventually. And it usually makes a good story, later.

My most recent misadventure occurred this week with my kids. It was one of those evenings that are so frequent in our particular stage of family life, with various drop offs and pick ups and narrow windows of time in between. Mercifully, this time, the various activities were at the same location. At 5:30 I picked up two of the kids from their softball practices and dropped off the third for an hour-long tennis camp.

The plan was that the two kids and I would go and pick up Qdoba, then retrieve the third kid and we would go have a picnic supper afterwards at the airport viewing park, a recently discovered picnic spot.
I turned the wrong way leaving the sports complex but got turned around and we headed toward the restaurant. I turned the wrong way again, thinking that Qdoba was to the left on the busy five-lane street, when it was to the right. Part of the problem was that I had used all of my mobile data for the month and didn’t think google maps would work while we were driving.

We finally made it to the restaurant, where they were training many of the workers and there was a lot of confusion and things took a really long time. But, we did connect to the free wi-fi and looked up the way to the airport viewing park while we were there. I had the kids who were with me look at the map and directions too, so we weren’t just relying on my memory.

We were on our way back to the sports complex in a bit of a rush, when my daughter looked in the bags and said, ‘Mom, this isn’t our food.’ At which point I said something I shouldn’t. And the other child with me shouted, ‘Mom, don’t say that word!’ as we pulled over again. Further search revealed that we had someone else’s food and all of ours and by then it was too late to turn back, so we returned to the sports complex, me apologizing for swearing, and picked up my son.

We then headed to the park, following the directions that three of us remembered. And went about five miles the wrong way before one of the kids somehow accessed a map app on my phone and we turned around again.

We eventually made it to the park, ate our not-very-hot-anymore meals from Qdoba and had a lovely time watching birds (so many red winged black birds!) and planes land and take off. It was hazy and magical and felt slightly miraculous after all that had gone wrong in getting there.

When we got back into the car, I asked, somewhat ruefully, and definitely wearily, and not at all confident in my own abilities to retrace the correct route, ‘Who will get us home?’ And my son answered from the back seat in a matter of fact and confident voice, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world: ‘You will, Mom.’ I almost cried.

I told this story to a wise friend who observed that so much of parenting is like that evening: wrong turns, wrong food, saying things we shouldn’t, saying sorry, turning around and starting over again and again and again, AND having all that we need and more, finding our way eventually, and our children speaking the words we least expect and most need to hear.

It also reminds me of Thomas Merton’s well-known prayer, ‘My Lord, God, I have no idea where I am going . . . I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you never leave me to face my perils alone.’

Elizabeth Vander Haagen

Elizabeth Vander Haagen co-pastors Boston Square Christian Reformed Church with her husband Jay Blankespoor.  They live in Grand Rapids, Michigan with their children Emma, Brianna, and Peter, and their dog Luna.


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    I loved this.

  • Bev Vandermolen says:

    A great story and a good word

  • RLG says:

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for the wonderful story of befuddlement and confusion. It happens to all of us at times. And most often we find our way through or out. But as we all know, Merton’s prayer is often not true. How often haven’t, even Christians, cried out, where are you God, never to experience his presence? That must have been Peter’s cry as he was crucified upside down. You’d be half crazy to think otherwise.

  • Jim Payton says:

    Delightful — thank you.

  • Travis West says:

    I was just this morning thinking back on some of my more poignant memories of getting lost (also a near-daily occurrence for me) over the years, and some of the learning that has come from it. Thanks for sharing this part of your story! And your second-to-last paragraph was simply beautiful, and so true.

  • Helen Luhrs says:

    This has happened to me so often. Lee calls it a Blankespoor thing. Hope there isn’t any osmosis going on. Thanks for a great story.

  • Diana Walker says:

    Getting lost has always worked for me.
    Why? Because getting lost helps me ultimately get me where I want or need to be.
    Some sort of metaphor.

  • Karl J Westerhof says:

    Yes! Yes to all of this, AND – the Merton quote is especially good coming from you, Sarah’s pastor; Sarah had that paragraph of his on her refrigerator !

  • Noreen says:

    Your kids have more confidence in you than mine did. After a big “lost” episode when he was in middle school ten years ago, my youngest son still frequently asks me, “Are you sure this is the right way?” 🙂 BUT I have discovered many new places I would never have seen and sometimes shortcuts because I went the “wrong” way!

  • Cathy Smith says:

    Loved it.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    You mean following the “white trail” is what gets you lost?

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