Thankful for a broken-down car(?!)

I’m actually really glad Walter (our Chevy Tahoe) broke down.

I certainly wasn’t jumping for joy when we were stopped for the third time on the side of the road, trying in vain to get him to go more than a couple of miles per hour, while our GPS cheerily shouted in the voice of Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit), “We’re bang on course, lads! Keep going!” 

Now on the third day of our trip and in the third car in as many days,  I’m glad.

There are the obvious blessings to count: if we had continued with Walter for even another hour before he broke down, we would have been stranded in the middle of nowhere, and that nice old guy from the gas station wouldn’t have been able to help us. We wouldn’t have been able to make it back home the next day and would’ve had to pay more for a rental car than we did, which might have meant not going on the trip at all. There are hundreds of other things that could have gone wrong, and hundreds of ways, I’m sure, that God was looking out for us to keep us safe. But why am I glad that Walter broke down in the first place?

Because I had too many plans. I’m a planner by nature, and I put way too much stock in making plans. I rely on them to make things alright. I get stressed if I don’t have a plan, and feel like I’m somehow a failure for not being prepared enough. Plans feature way too heavily in my sense of worth and safety.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this trip so far, it’s that being part of telling the Story does not make you the Author. 

Just because we felt like God was nudging us toward this trip and leading us to start this blog doesn’t mean the plans we had made for the trip and the blog are the plans He has in mind for either. 

The whole story of what happened with the three different cars is longer than it is interesting, but so you have some idea of the adventure so far, I’ll sum it up. In bullet points, it goes something like this:

  • Before we left, we discovered Walter had some leaks in the doors in the back, and all the rains we’ve had recently had caused him to mildew under the mats, which we didn’t realize until we pulled them up to give him a good vacuum, so we spent most of the day before we left scrubbing him out, and he still smelled bad and we were behind on packing.
  • Somehow we managed to get out on time the next morning.
  • Almost to Amarillo,  Walter suddenly decided he had no more what I very scientifically call “oomph."
  • With the help of the elderly gentleman at the gas station, we got him going again for a few more hours and headed back toward Dallas.
  • An hour away from home, Walter couldn’t do it anymore, and the temporary fix we had done wouldn’t work again.
  • We got a tow to the nearest dealership and spent the night in that town.
  • Over $800 later the next evening, Walter got us safely back home, where we got a rental car.
  • The next day we drove for 17 hours to make it to Phoenix, AZ, and outside Phoenix the service engine light came on, which given our recent track record, made us nervous enough to not want to drive it across the rest of Arizona that way.
  • This morning we swapped rental cars and are headed to San Diego, where we’re blessed enough to still be able to meet with Chris and Carly Wright of HandLettering Co for a short time this evening.
  • Just now, I lost my wedding ring down the shifter of our car. Pretty sure it's gone forever.

Having so many things go wrong has been stressful to the point of being overwhelming—the kind of overwhelming where you literally don’t know how or what to do. Being in that state isn’t exactly what I would call fun, but it does push you over a certain line where you realize that since you’re not in control you might as well stop worrying or trying to make plans.

Which is good. Because I at least have a tendency rely more on my plans than on God.  And the way I’ve been approaching this trip lately was putting way too much of the focus on trying to be prepared instead of being open to what God wants to do with it.  I’ve been getting really nervous and feeling inadequate and unsure of how I would be able to conduct interviews about something I have a ridiculously hard time articulating verbally, and my response was to prepare, plan, and prepare some more. I haven’t really been able to do that lately given the circumstances. and although that scares the crap out of me, it’s also an incredible relief. I think all these crazy circumstances have been God’s very kind way of telling me to shut up and trust Him, and focus on Him and His Story, not what I think my little story should look like right now.

Did we know for certain going on this trip anyway was the right thing to do? Not exactly. Was it stressful? Yes. Am I still nervous? You betcha. Were potentially stupid financial decisions made? Probably. But will God take care of us? Absolutely. 

Somewhere along the way the second morning, Ethan was reminded of this verse:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
— Matthew 6:25-26

So here were are—third car so far, somewhere in the desert, tired, somewhat frazzled, and unprepared.

Can God still do something with that? Of course He can.

My prayer is that we are able to let go and let our little story play out however God wants it to, trusting that His plans are always the best.

And, after all, it’s the unexpected twists and turns that get the story started. 

Will [Mr. and Mrs. Darling] reach the nursery in time? If so, how delightful for them, and we shall all breathe a sigh of relief, but there will be no story. On the other hand, if they are not in time, I solemnly promise that it will all come right in the end.
— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan