Car Wash Wisdom

One activity my children always enjoyed was the rare, but always exciting, trip to the car wash.

As a young mom, backing the car out of the garage and letting my two littles help me hose-wash the car was a fun summer activity. But every now and then, the family wagon (yes, station wagon) needed a proper bath, so it was off to the local gas station.

I’d pull up in front of the entrance to adventure, and we’d be greeted by those huge dangling plastic strips that announced that the ride was about to begin. I’d call out, “Are all the windows closed?”, even though I knew they already were. The question really served to grab the attention of my riders, to alert them that the beginning of our adventure was near.

I’d line the left tire up to the track, while neon signs reminded me to put the car in neutral, take my foot off the pedals, and for Pete’s Sake, don’t steer! (Okay…I might have added a little to that last instruction.)

Feeling the first quick jerk, we were off into a loud and foreign land. Water shot from every direction, and as if by magic, soap splattered against the windows like paintballs. Each soap bomb elicited giggles from the backseat.



The real vocal fireworks started when the heavy strips, draped like a theater curtain, started jerking and dancing our way. “It’s the octopus!” they’d scream. Laughter ringing in my ears, we watched the felt spaghetti automatically slosh and wipe away the soap from the car.

A final spray on the car meant – the wind tunnel! Jet propelled streams of air buffeted and rocked the car, blowing water off the car.

I have to admit I liked our trips to the automatic car wash too. It was fun. And to have that fun, I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t have to steer, accelerate or brake. As a matter of fact, if I tried to drive, it would be a very dangerous trip. Part of the enjoyment of the whole thing was giving up control. Just put the car in neutral, sit back, and for Pete’s Sake, don’t try to steer.

Most of us really like steering. We like having input, being in charge and making choices about our time. But…

I don’t know about you, but this whole control thing gets pretty tiring. Back then, if I heard “What are we doing today?” one more time, I might have to clap my hands over my ears and start singing “Help”. Being in charge absolutely has it’s positives, but it has to be balanced with free time – play time – rest time.

When you start to feel overwhelmed or pressured, maybe it’s God’s way of saying “Take your foot off the pedals.” Your soul is calling out for peace.

How about a walk in the woods? A bike ride. Call a friend. Bake some cookies.

Slip your gearshift in neutral, and take your feet off the pedals. Unplug and enjoy the ride…

And for Pete’s Sake, don’t try to steer.


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78 thoughts on “Car Wash Wisdom

    • Hi Terry! I often need this thought to be in the front of my mind. I’m glad you saw some worth in it too!

      Thank you so much for your encouraging support of the blog, and on FB. I really appreciate you.

      God bless,

  1. Sounds like a great idea, for sure!
    Your story reminded me of the time when we took the kids with us to the car wash. Our youngest was about 4 years old and had never been before. We told him we were going to the car “squash”. Oh my goodness…..that did not go over well. We quickly assured him we wouldn’t be getting squashed, but by that point he had made his decision NOT to like the car wash.

    • Hi Kathleen! I know if I said something like that to my kids when they were young, that would be the end of car washes with them! Well, at least the automated ones.

      Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday!

  2. Such a wonderful analogy, Ceil, about how we need to let go and let God, “and for Pete’s Sake, don’t try to steer.” Ultimately, He is in full control, and we need to trust Him to tell us when to put the pedal to the metal, to hit the brakes, or just idle in neutral. Such an awesome God we serve!
    And you’ve reminded me, too, that I’ve yet to take Virginia through a car wash like this; I know she would be just as thrilled as your children were! I’ll be taking her on another trip this month to see my mother, so hopefully, we can do it then.

    • Hi Martha! Oh my gosh, I hope it’s a great memory and lots of fun with Virginia. My children always loved our infrequent trips. Pretty cheap source of entertainment!

      God is in control, and really, any sense of control on my part is an illusion. I think that’s why it feels so good to ‘let go and let God!’

      Sunday blessings,

    • Hi Anne! Thank you for visiting today, it’s nice to see you here.

      Isn’t it wonderful how God works? I’m so glad you needed some encouragement, and this post could help you. That’s so awesome!

      You have a blessed week too 🙂

    • Hi Jean! I’m not sure if K.C.’s taken the kids to the car wash, I’ll have to ask her. It would be fun with all the littles in the car, wouldn’t it?

      Thank you for coming over and commenting, I really appreciate your support! I think we can all relate to the experience right? Such small things can often reflect the words and love of God.

      Have a peaceful night,

    • Hi Deb! I think we can all relate to the car wash experience. Such a small thing, but it was tons of entertainment for my children.

      Thank you for your kind words about the post. Have a great week too!

  3. You are right Ceil, we seem to like being in control and reluctant to hand over the steering to God. A priest told me once: When you hand over a problem to God, don’t try to wrestle it back from Him. Give Him time to solve it for you.

    I suppose going for a walk, or baking is one way of taking our minds of the “steering wheel”. The thing is, only our dog appreciates my baking.

    God bless.

    • Hi Victor! I love those words from your priest. I have also been told that, and it’s so wise. I can’t even count how many times I have surrendered to the Lord, only to turn around and take the problem to myself again. How crazy is that?

      I am sure your baking is just fine! But having man’s best friend appreciate your efforts is nothing to sneeze at either. I like to bake, but because of the calories, I don’t do it much.

      Sunday blessings,

  4. Love this story, Ceil! However, when my middle child was a toddler, she would grow hysterical at the car wash. She was sure those spinning strips of cloth buffeting the windows were going to come inside! I like the kind of car washes we have today…

    I really like your point about not steering. I do like to steer a LOT! But it’s much better to let Him do it. I always end up at a better place!

    • Hi Jerralea! I am a little surprised that my kids took to it so well. They both tended to be shy as children, but for some reason, they loved that car wash.

      I try to steer a lot too. I think it will take my lifetime to get good at letting the Lord steer. Which is so silly, because he has everything in his hands anyway. As you said, we’ll come to the right place so much faster.
      Thanks for your visit today!

  5. LOVE LOVE this one, Ceil! What a great analogy!
    Letting go of the steering wheel is a CONSTANT struggle for me–even at the car wash!
    Blessings, My Friend!

    • Hi Lulu! Thank you for your enthusiastic words about the post! I do think the car wash is something we can all relate to, it sure was a hit with the kids at my house.

      I always seem to be wrestling the Lord to take over the steering, which is so silly. Who better to lead my life than God? Oh well, it’s a step by step transformation to go from steering to enjoying the ride. Hope I keep making progress!

      Have a peaceful night,

  6. I love this and have to admit that far too often I try to steer, which is never good!
    My daughter thought the fabric strips were socks when she was young and the name stuck, so they all said we were going through the socks when we went through the car wash. 🙂

    • Hi Mari! I love that your daughter thought they were socks, that’s so cute! I don’t know what it is about car washes, but they do make an impression on the kids, don’t they?

      I need to remember to let God steer, and I know that. It always works out better when he leads.
      Have a peaceful night,

  7. Great analogy! I always found that to be rather fun myself, Ceil! I find as I grow in my faith, it is easier to let go and let God–kind of like letting go of the steering wheel in the car wash!

    • Hi Pam! I think it’s wonderful that you see your faith getting stronger and more focused. It’s so much better to let God steer than anyone else. And we’ll get where we’re supposed to go so much faster too.

      Here’s to letting go of the wheel!

  8. Great analogy! Now all I’m thinking is that I really need to get my car washed. But it’s funny how FUN the whole thing is to kids. Not so fun as adults, but maybe we need to recapture some of that youthful wonder about it.

    • Hi Stephanie! After this winter so far, I think we all could use a car wash. I do enjoy the experience now, even though I don’t have any little ones anymore. I like sitting back and letting the machine do the work.

      You’re right about the childhood wonder though. I need to remember that. Life is wonder!
      Have a peaceful night,

  9. Yes, God is at the wheel, dear Ceil, and I want to keep it this way! I love long walks in nature, I find it to be very therapeutic and is great for relaxing and meditation. I really like your analogies and posts, Ceil. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Hi LInda! Thank you for your kind words about the blog here Linda. I really appreciate your support.

      I like walking in nature too, that’s also a way for me to take my foot off the pedals. Nothing like a walk in the arboretum to help me reset.
      It’s always great to see you here my friend,

  10. I was right there with you through the car wash! Letting go of the wheel can bring peace and fun, and clean our soul, so to speak! Thanks for this wonderful analogy. Have a great week Ceil!

    • Hi Lynn! I like the way you describe the feeling of letting go. It does bring peace and fun. I’m glad you liked the analogy. I think we all can relate to the car wash experience.

      Welcome back! I hope your vacation was wonderful 🙂

    • Hi Alice! I bet you feel lighter already. It’s hard to say ‘no’, because we always want to help out. But after a while it does take a toll on our happiness and energy level.

      Enjoy your new found brake time!

  11. Wonderful analogy Ceil. I’m on vacation now, and I always have difficulty resting while vacationing. Always feel like I “should” be reading something of value or doing something educational. Thanks for the reminder. I love this.

    • Hi Mary! I hope you are enjoying your vacation Mary. It’s so cold here today, I think of you somewhere warm and toasty!

      Don’t feel like you shouldn’t relax. You should! In order to be an effective, cheerful giver we have to be rested. Taking care of yourself is a good thing. Vacation is a great place to start.

      Nice to see you again!

  12. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes, I forget that I am not in control, God is. I never realized how much fun a trip through a car wash could be. The one we used to go to had us depart the car, go inside and watch from the office area. Not near as much fun as what your family had.

    • Hi Cecelia! I think I remember those kinds of car washes too. But it was so much more fun to be pelted by soap and water (and not get wet!).

      I agree, I forget that I’m not in control too. Ugh. I never am, and really it’s a good thing. I can make choices that override the Lords leadership, but that never ends well either. Better to let him drive.

      Thank you for reading and commenting on two posts today. I really appreciate your support 🙂

  13. I love how you take a funny yet simple life event, and turn it into a parable! Oh the lessons we can learn from just listening to the parallels in our physical life to our spiritual life! Letting go… indeed, perhaps the hardest thing for any of us to do. We want to be in control, and submitting to the Lord the most difficult part of our salvation, I think. But I have learned there is great peace in submission. When I let go and trust, there is peace that comes of that, which can’t be found when I am stressing out in the driver’s seat. Excellent thought for the day my friend, your writing powerful!

    • Hi MM! What a precious lesson you have learned about submission. I need to keep going deeper and deeper into that. For some reason I think I know better sometimes, and it never really ends well.

      Let go and trust. These are words to dedicate my life to living.
      Thank you for your supportive words about the post too. You are so kind, and so appreciate it!


  14. Thank you for sharing this story and such a meaningful message behind it, Ceil. I needed it. I can just hear the giggles of your children, and I have to smile. It’s so hard to give up control sometimes, isn’t it? I always want to “fix” things or make people feel better, but I so often have to let go and let God. To take my foot off the pedal and rest back into the cushions of His powerful grace. Have a blessed week! Hugs!

    • Hi Trudy! Thank you for that image of grace being like a cushion. Who doesn’t like snuggling up to a comfy pillow? That’s what God’s grace is like. Protection. Comfort. Warmth. I love that!

      We really did have a great time going through the car wash. It was a small thing, but it was worth the few dollars for the joy!


  15. Hi Ceil! Thank you for this amazing word picture about being in control…or not. We can really get ourselves into a true mess by trying to be in control. God does a much better job than I do!


    • Hi Kim! I completely agree with you. God always does a better job than me, and yet somehow I still want to steer. It will take my lifetime to pry my hands off the wheel I’m afraid. But I’m in it to win it for sure!

      Blessings right back to you,
      PS Thank you for your support on Twitter!

    • Hi Sandi! What a wonderful application of the car wash. I think that’s the best way to live really. We have to be the steering wheel, but God suggests the path, and I can only hope I’ll listen.

      Right with you on the snacking thing…sigh,

  16. Awesome! Car wash memories are good memories when you have kids in the back seat.

    I love the analogy of letting go of the control to God and for pity sakes-don’t steer! This is one post I’m going to remember next time I want to take control.

    • Hi Mary! We really did enjoy that little trip to the car wash. And as a bonus, I got a clean car!

      I’m so glad you liked the post today, it was a good tale to tell myself too. Let go and let God. He knows exactly where I need to go.

  17. I hated going to the car wash as a child! I’d always feel worried that the water was going to get in somehow!
    As I read your post I realise that my fear of it was probably largely to do with feeling trapped and not in control.
    I still struggle to give up control at times but I’m learning to surrender and trust God and there is peace to be found when we can take our hands off the wheel and let him do the steering!

    • Hi Lesley! I can tell you, the experience could have gone either way. My children were very shy as littles, and I can see the experience definitely backfiring. I’m so sorry it was such a bad memory.

      I struggle too, that’s for sure. God knows where I need to go, and what I need to do. So why do I always want to steer? Ugh. I have so much to learn…

  18. I have to admit to you, I really like those days that I don’t have to steer! Maybe it’s my age, haha! I like the way you suggest fun things interspersed with all the “doing” in the course of our days. That’s true balance, my friend, and so very necessary! I like the picture of going through the car wash with you; it’s an excellent example of your point!

    • Hi Mary! It probably is age, because with age comes wisdom. I want to get there myself my friend. It’s so much better to allow the Lord to direct my way, I wish I’d quit trying to do it all by myself.

      Little trips did break up the day when they were little, that’s for sure. The day can be mighty long when it starts with the sunrise!

      Have a peaceful night,

  19. You are so right…it is SO liberating to let go, and let God steer. Sometimes I think He has to pry my white knuckles off the steering wheel to get me to give up my illusion of control. There is so little in life that we can really control, but we sure like to feel like we can, don’t we? Thank you for sharing this beautiful post…it really blessed me. And thank you for your faithful prayers for Kristen and your dear, sweet encouragement to me in these battles. God bless you abundantly, my friend. 🙂

    • Hi Cheryl! I have a few ‘white knuckle’ moments myself, I have to admit. I know that God can get me to where I need to go so much faster and easier…why do I want to steer so much?

      It’s my honor to pray for Kristen, and she continues to be in my daily prayer. Thank you for your consistent updates on her progress.
      God’s blessings to you too,

  20. thanks for this sweet invitation to hand the reins over to the One who truly does control every step we take.

    what peace when we can actually do that. and only He can help us release our grasping, controlling natures.

    thanks for taking us there today, friend …

    • Hi Linda! You said a mouthful there. Yes, only God can cure us of our desire to grab that wheel and start steering. He has a big job to do with me!

      But I know I have the grace to overcome, I have to remember that I have that heavenly power.
      Nice to see you here 🙂

  21. What a delight to read this today. I had one of those days yesterday where by midday I took my foot off the everything and just crashed. and yes I feel much better today. My kids just loved the car wash and I still do. Lots of great lessons in that experience, isn’t it? love this post!

    • Hi Jean! Nothing like a good rest to refresh and renew. Good for you! It feels so good to have God in control doesn’t it? (Almost like I don’t deserve it.)

      Thank you for your kind words about the post. Coming from you, that’s quite a compliment! May God keep driving your life right into his joyful will for you.

  22. Hi Ceil,
    what a beautiful post, both the wording and the humour was perfect. I think I would call the long felt strips octopus too! We took our car to one of these places recently and, yes, it was a nice feeling of relaxation while all the driving and cleaning was being done – just like our walk with the Lord.

    You have just reminded me of the ‘relaxation’ bit too, as my husband said to me this morning while we were out. ‘When are you going to make those Welsh cakes’.

    I think I told him I would make him some Welsh cakes about a month ago. Oh dear……

    • Hi Brenda! You’ll have to tell me what a Welsh cake is, now I really want to know!

      Thank you for your supportive comment about the post. Those little memories can teach a lot can’t they? I like the car wash too! As a matter of fact, my car is filthy. Might be time to go visit those octopus strips today 🙂

      • Hi Ceil,
        Welsh cakes are an old traditional recipe, originally baked on a heated bake stone (I cook mine on an iron one) which are made by cutting into small round shapes the following ingredients, and then frosting them with caster sugar.
        1 1b of flour
        1 teaspoon on baking powder
        1 pinch of allspice
        1 pinch of salt
        4 oz butter
        4 oz lard
        7 oz sugar
        4 oz seedless raisins
        2 eggs beaten
        milk to mix
        grease bake stone to cook them.

        They are delicious!

  23. Oh yes…a walk in the woods would be lovely about now because it is a beautiful warm day here in NC! I have always enjoyed the car wash my kids always got a kick out of it too but I never thought of it as giving up control before….but it is SO true! I love this comparison to letting the Lord be in control! After this weekend I may be so stressed out that I may be singing Carrie Underwood’s song “Jesus Take the Wheel”!

    • Hi Debby! I hope the weekend goes well, with as little stress as possible. Home improvements are always a messy business (as I well know), but think of what it’s going to look like later!

      I forgot all about that song, it’s a good one for letting go of the steering wheel. May God help us both to trust in him.

    • Hi Karen! What fun to know you’re learning so much lately! I hope they are all soft lessons, not hardship ones.

      Thank you for your always kind comment Karen. Have a peaceful night,

  24. That’s funny. In addition, to the car wash, I used to tell the girls, that there’s a snake in the road, when we saw ‘road curve’ caution signs. Not long afterwards, before I would say anything, they would holler, “Watch out Dad!! Don’t hit the giant snake.” I would scream and swerved the truck. Of course, that always scared the oncoming traffic. JK

    “Ah! Those were the good days, never to be repeated.” I lamented to myself.

    “Now” I thought, “I’m on cruise control.”

    But, a few years later, God introduced the three most cutest girls, into my life. If you think that Dad was a trip, you should see Papaw behind the wheel. 🙂 LOL

    Life is a fun action packed amusement ride, full of surprises and plenty of opportunities to rest. As for me, as long as I can handle it, it’s pedal to the metal, and rest is when the Lord and I go for the long leisurely walk, down the streets of Gold.

    • Hi Keith! I think it’s great to have such a positive outlook on life. An amusement ride is a great analogy too. Love the snake in the road story!

      Have a great weekend with your girls 🙂

  25. Hey Ceil – in answer to your question about the mini pies…
    I used pre-made pie crust from the refrigerator section, roll it a little thinner and cut out the heart shapes. Then put a small “dollop” of jam on one, cover it with another heart, crimp the edges, brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
    Easy and fun for the kids!

    • Hi Mari! Thank you so much for the recipe! I was hoping you’d give me a step by step. I will absolutely try this with my little granddaughters. Sounds like so much fun

      Happy Valentines Day ❤️,

  26. Hi Ceil! Long time no see! It’s good to be back in the blogging world. I find that with age, I’m wanting more and more to not have to steer. I think so many of us have spent our lives steering so much that we are now at the point of surrender. Take the wheel, Lord! At least that’s how I find myself feeling recently.

    Tight hugs,


    • Hi Alison! How nice of you to come by an visit!
      I think your attitude is very wise. Someone else referenced the song, “Jesus Take the Wheel” as well. It’s really the best way to live.

      Welcome back to blogging 🙂

  27. I used to thrive under stress but this passed year wiped me out. This year God is teaching me the beauty of abiding in Him, trusting Him to be in control. I don’t have to do everything, there are seasons to rest and I need to learn to do that.
    Thanks to this encouraging word.

    • Hi TC! I think I used to thrive on action too, the pressure made me have to think quickly and gave me the image of control. Ugh. No more thank you!

      God will lead me to the places where I can be the more effective. I don’t have to look too hard, he already knows how to lead me. I’m happy to give up steering, just like you. Your thoughts about seasons is a good one, I like that. Thank you for sharing that insight!

  28. My kids used to LOVE the car wash too, Ceil! I loved your description- it brought back so many memories!! <3

    I need this reminder to let go and let God steer the wheels and take all this weight from me. I need it now especially. Thank you, my friend. I'll try to let go…And trust in Him.

    • Hi Chris! That car wash experience seems to be a universal one. Right now, my husband is outside washing and waxing his car…makes me want to take my car through the automated car wash! Lol!

      Letting go is never easy, I think it’s a learned behavior. We’re all taught to be independent, and take care of business, but never really shown how. I am figuring out that God is the leader, and he’ll steer to the best places if I’ll just let him do it.
      We can both try to let go…it’s easier when we have company on the road!

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