You need to read this if your life hasn’t gone as planned

When my husband Gary died of cancer, my kids encouraged me to take an early retirement. The plan was to temporarily move to my son Jeremy and daughter-in-law Denise’s place in Marina del Rey.


Photo: Marlys

On my drive from Oregon to southern California, I was escorted off the Pacific Coast Highway by two patrol cars with flashing lights.

I’m blaming it on Jeremy. He recommended jogging over to the Pacific Coast Highway from the 101. 

Beautiful scenery, he said. Less traffic, he said. 

He was right. The Pacific Ocean was gorgeous as the sun painted a fiery sky and then bowed off stage.

And there was zero traffic. Which struck me as rather odd.

But then these two patrol cars showed up. With lights flashing. Pinning my car so I couldn’t make a quick get-away.

“Where are you going, ma’am?” (I could not, for the life of me, remember the name of Jeremy and Denise’s town, which, right there, didn’t look suspicious at all.)

“Where are you coming from?” Oregon.

“Do you live in Oregon?” Yes.

“How did you get on this highway?” Drove.

“Didn’t you see the big flashing signs indicating the highway is closed?” No.

The California Highway Patrol neglected to place flashing “highway closed” signs at the entrance to the PCH from Rice Road. And now I’m going to jail. That’s just great.

After further questioning, they provided my very own private escort—one in front, one on my rear bumper—back in the direction from whence I had come.

Welcome to southern California. 

This was a life detour I hadn’t planned. Into widowhood. A new community. Living alone. Managing the strain of uncertain finances. It’s not what I would have written into my story, but it’s what happened.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr. admonishes us to:

See any detour as an opportunity to experience new things.

And so I decided to make the most of this alternate route. I played tourist at Mission San Juan Capistrano, Griffith Observatory, Getty Museum high in the hills above Malibu, and the Museum of Tolerance in downtown L.A.

My daughter-in-law’s pink-rimmed bike took me to the grocery store, the post office, out past the marina.


Photo: Marlys

I rode as far as the Santa Monica pier one day. And numerous times to Venice Beach for the fabulous fish tacos and equally fabulous street entertainment. 


Photo: Marlys

I hiked in the Hollywood Hills with Jeremy and Denise when they were home and sampled some amazing food along the way.


Photo: Denise

I also attended a very unique church, Dream Center. They provide poverty relief, host recovery programs, sponsor a rescue program for human trafficking victims, and offer housing for homeless families, veterans, and youth emancipating from foster care. And I had a small opportunity to give back through one of their many outreach programs.

There are so many sunny, freckled, carefree, brave, whimsical memories playing in my head from a land called southern California, a place I had no intention of ever living, but a delightful detour of a place. 

What if?

What if we could make the most of the detour we hadn’t planned on – the detour into infertility, or divorce, or caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s? What if we could pull out Google Maps to discover what there is to see and explore along the route? 

What if we braved our way through the detour with an attitude of learning, adjusting, opening our hearts, falling deeper into love and trust with God who was not caught off guard by any of this? 

No matter how inconvenient a detour is, it gets us to where we want to go because it gets us to where God wants us to be, even if we didn’t think we wanted to be there.


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  1. Jimmie Reed

    I love the article. It spoke to many aspects of my life. The one thing Im having a hard time with, is in order for you to have a detour, planned or otherwise, would mean that you have a destination with a planned route to be detoured from. Im having hard time finding the destination to make a planned route to.

    • That’s a hard place to be, Jimmie. Route-less. It might help to ask a few questions of yourself (or better yet, ask someone who knows you well to help you answer these questions): What are your passions and interests? What lights you up? How has God gifted you? What are you skilled to do? What about your life experiences: What have you experienced that gives you street cred to speak into someone else’s life? Or to bring change to make life better for someone else? Determine what it is that lights a fire in you … and then partner with God and go do that thing. Praying for you, my friend.

  2. Sherree Niepomnik

    Oh, girlfriend. Your posts always make me stop and think. Your positive attitude is such a testament to God’s will. And, yes, with all the detours, I truly believe we are where God wants us to be. He certainly teaches us lessons along the way and stays with us as we journey through our experiences, good and bad. I’ve found I can always find a positive in a negative situation; a lesson I learned a long time ago.

    • Well said, Sherree: “[God] certainly teaches us lessons along the way and stays with us as we journey through our experiences, good and bad.” I want to learn my lessons well!

  3. Nora Weed

    Here we are in Amsterdam at the airport ready for our next flight to Athens. It was a nerve racking morning not knowing what to expect, it was like a detour! We didn’t know the airline or the airport layout & there was no one we could find to ask until a security person walked by. She didn’t really know our airline but she looked at time & place then told which way to head. Another detour we had to take but we found our airline. We were so early there was no one in line. Our agent was friendly & spoke perfect English. She checked all our bags for free! But when I asked for aisle seats she looked & found two at the front of of the plane but it would cost 30 euros. I said yes! Then she said it’s your lucky day “no charge”. Our detour next took us on a long…long… long walk to security but no problem there & next a long walk to our gate. Here we sit ready for our next exciting adventure in Athens. Amsterdam was lovely and we would definitely go again. So many wonderful roads ahead & even a possible detour or two!

  4. Allison McCormick

    Thank you for helping me reconsider my detours and for asking “What if we could make the most of the detour we hadn’t planned on taking.” Yes, what if… So many detours but I think they have all led home. That place where God has patiently waited for me to meet Him.

    • Allison, I love how you said this: “So many detours but I think they have all led home.” What is it about the word ‘home’ that warms something inside me? Home is where the Father is, and the detours He allows leads us back to Him, back to home. Thank you, my friend.

  5. Jennifer Killam

    Great article. Hope to email you again soon.
    Doing ok- been better! Have a few side effects with cancer meds.
    Love Jennifer ‘

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jennifer. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with cancer med issues on top of widowhood. Would love to hear more from you. Blessings, my friend.

  6. Marlys,
    I enjoyed reading this article. So very true on many occasions. Life’s detours show up. It’s how we respond to them that truly matters.

    • You sound as if you’ve been around a few curves and detours, and speak from experience, Maxine. Wisdom, this: “It’s how we respond to them that truly matters.” Thank you.

  7. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Good morning Marlys & your readers. I guess most of us have thought throughout our live, so many times, ‘What if, yet we still managed to get through life, not realising that perhaps our father God had other plans. Such a lovely read once more and it brought to mind so many ‘detours’, particularly cycling somewhere in God’s world. One such ‘detour’ was when I was cycling the west coast of US from Seatle to San Fran’. I too was on the Pacific Hwy 101 and I decided I needed some hills so went up into the Sierra’s. It was a damp, misty, dank and fairly cold late morning and I came across ‘The Greasy Spoon’, a roadside eatery!. By now I was thinking I could do with some food and drink. I parked up and on entering I saw a sign above the ordering hatch which read, “This ain’t no King Burger, you get it the way I serve it”, I chuckled and ordered what I needed and when it was served, it was BIG and ‘probably the most tasty burger I’ve ever had’. Those inquisitive good folk in the Greasy Spoon were interested in the ‘why I was cycling’ etc (it was for children’s cancer causes) and the result was a pocket of dollars and a free meal… ‘you folks are so kind’ and I mean that sincerely. What a ‘meaningful’, rather than a ‘meaningless’ detour…. and there’s so many more. Thank again, our love, Bx P & family.

    • Peter, I love the story of your “meaningful, rather than a meaningless detour” into the Sierras and the pocket of dollars and free meal at The Greasy Spoon! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Judy Hall

    I love this.

  9. As Oswald Chambers says….”The circumstances of a saint’s life are ordained of God. In the life of a saint there is no such thing as chance. God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you can’t understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands. God brings you to places, among people, and into certain conditions to accomplish a definite purpose through the intercession of the Spirit in you.” That’s what I call living by Faith.

    • Oswald Chambers said this so well, didn’t he: “… no such thing as chance.”

      No coincidences, no random happenings for those who are believers in Christ and living by faith.

      Here’s another thought from Chambers that goes along with what you shared above: “Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading.” I think you fit into that category, Mick.

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