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[HOMEWORD] Life is a journey, one mile at a time

Kathy needs gas before she starts her work day. I promise to go before she leaves at 7:00 a.m. It’s dark and a little chilly as I drive to Sparky’s gas station near our home.

I’m reminded I need to replace the windshield wipers as the squeaky blades wipe the morning dew off the glass. There aren’t many of us out. The morning rush from all the area neighborhoods has not begun.

I have to admit, I’m working on autopilot when I pull up to the pump, jump out and unscrew the gas cap. I select the grade and the gas flows into the tank.

Looking up, I read all the advertisements on the pump – “Subway inside” and “Save with a low interest credit card. No annual fees.”

Coming fully awake, I’m struck when I read beneath the orange and blue Gulf logo: “Life, one mile at a time.”

Twin Bridges Road, LA Hwy 488, is the only direct route from my childhood home in western Rapides Parish to restaurants, department stores, doctors’ offices, hospitals, movie theaters, car dealers, etc. The 16-mile trek to Alexandria, Louisiana goes through some of the most beautiful timberlands in the state – much of it is part of Kisatchie National Forest. Established in 1930, Kisatchie National Forest spreads across seven parishes and comprises more than 604,000 acres.

Traveling along Hwy 488 through the forest is familiar to me. Ranger stations and the turns to Valentine and Kincaid Lakes mark my distance. Hiking trail entrances and the side roads that head south onto the now abandoned World War II Army military camp, Camp Claiborne, remind me of days past when I planted hundreds of pine saplings working for a forestry contractor and the summer I served as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Youth Conservation Corps.

Every turn and the sparse straightaways are well known to me. For more than 40 years, I have ridden or driven along this highway. I have logged thousands of miles going to and from the homeplace.

Twin Bridges Road took me to college. I traveled the road with my best man Oscar Medina to my wedding and future bride. Kathy and I drove to Mom and Dad’s with our firstborn tucked safely in his car seat. For many years, our small family traveled through the forest for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with the extended family. I sadly followed the hearses of my grandfather and then my father along that road to stand by their gravesides at the church in the woods just beyond where I grew up.

I return along Hwy 488 to memories of simpler times – times where play was paramount, where summers were filled with trips to swim in the creek and eat ice-cold watermelon on the bank, where I stood in my parents’ yard gazing at stars and dreaming about the future.

Mile after mile, my life’s journey unfolds – all along this single piece of highway.

Jesus journeyed life one mile at a time. And each mile He walked after rising from the waters of baptism was dedicated to bringing redemption to a lost people. His course was not easy. Knowing our path would be difficult too, He promises to never leave us or forsake us.

This past Thanksgiving, Kathy and I returned to Louisiana to visit my mom. Our visit was important since Mom was told two months earlier she has pancreatic cancer.

“It will be fine,” she assured me when I first talked with her after her diagnosis. “The Lord has everything in His hands. He’s with me.”

The drive out on Hwy 488 is comforting as I accelerate out of each bend. The road is like an old friend, silent and reassuring. I travel the road and think about the weeks and months ahead. Mom’s doctors are surprised that she is not in much pain. They tell her that she has six to 12 months in this life.

During our times alone at Thanksgiving, Mom and I talk about her funeral. She asks me to participate in her service. I assure her that her favorite hymn “How Great Thou Art” sung by George Beverly Shea will be a part. She tells me it should be a celebration – a rejoicing time. “My passing is just the continuation of my journey.”

The Psalmist reminds us that the Lord guards us in all our ways – even as we pass from familiar pathways to grander adventures with Him.

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