“One of the greatest strains in life is the strain of waiting for God. God takes the saints like a bow which He stretches and at a certain point the saint says, “I can’t stand anymore,” but God does not heed, He goes on stretching because He is aiming at His mark, not ours, and the patience of the saints is that they “hang in” until God lets the arrow fly. Stand steadfastly true to God and God will bring His truth out in a way that will make your life a sacrament, i.e., the abiding presence of God will come through the simple elements of your life, but you must wait for him.” ~Oswald Chambers
Friday February 20, 2015
Well, we had quite the week. I emphatically stated that I was not going to spend anymore nights in the van. Aaron had sent in his resume and we put our washer and dryer that had been sitting in a friend’s garage on Craigslist. We heard nothing, not one stinkin’ thing on either one. No acknowledging that the resume had been received and not one inquiry about the washer and dryer. We had to be out of our friend’s house on Monday and we were going to use the money from the washer and dryer to stay in a hotel…because I emphatically stated that I was not going to stay in that van again. We were frustrated by the lack of activity on our attempt to temporarily fix our situation, then we checked the mail. There was a check in it for $500, the exact amount we had been asking for the washer and dryer. We deposited the check Saturday morning, excited that even though we hadn’t sold the washer and dryer someone had felt led to send the amount we needed for the hotel.
The message on Sunday was about finishing well, and a video of Derek Redmond at the 1992 Olympics was shared. When we got in the van after the service Isabella said, “Raise your hand if you cried during the video!” Haha! We all raised our hands. We talked about the fact that we want our life stories to be perfect and for nothing difficult or bad to ever happen, but when we see stories like Derek Redmond’s we realize that it is in the overcoming of the difficulties, or moving on in spite of them, that inspiration and encouragement is found. When have you ever found a perfect story and thought, “Wow! That really inspired me. That was just amazing!”? Probably never. We might not like this part of our story, but if it is going to make an impact and show God’s goodness, then we have to go through these uncomfortable parts. Even if we look foolish.
Monday started with some really bad weather. I really do mean bad. Our first year here in TN I laughed at our first snow day because you could still see the grass poking through the snow that had fallen. I lived in MN/WI my whole life before moving here, and we would get 2 feet of snow and still have to go to school. The difference here is that the equipment to keep the roads clear when snow and ice hits isn’t available. It gets crazy!! The kids were already off school because it was President’s Day. I was going to book our hotel, but the bank was closed because of the holiday so our money, we deposited on Saturday, still wasn’t credited to our account.
The bad weather continued on Tuesday and school was canceled again. I checked our bank account Tuesday morning to see if the money had been credited yet, it hadn’t. We had to leave the house that morning because our friend’s client was coming so we packed everyone in the van and headed out, without the hotel being booked. I checked every hour to see if the money had deposited yet. We sat in the parking lot of the Franklin Walmart because one of the windshield wipers on the van had broken and we needed to get a new one as soon as money was in the account. Ice was coming down with the snow so working wipers were a necessity to be able to go anywhere. I called the bank after noon to talk to someone and find out why our money wasn’t showing up. I was told because I had deposited on the weekend, and because Monday was a holiday, it hadn’t had the full business day required for a deposit to clear and that it would show up after 12:00am. What??!!! NO!!!!!!! I ended the call and cried. We had nowhere to go. We normally hang out at the library or the rec center where you’re not required to buy anything to hang out in them and there’s wifi. Sweetness. But, they are both government run facilities, and all government buildings were closed because of this weather. Ugh!!!! We drove back to Spring Hill, with our one working wiper, to sit in our trusty Kroger parking lot. We had no idea what else to do. I ran in to get some sandwich stuff at supper time, but other than that we mostly sat in the van. The van was packed tight because we had assumed we were going to be able to get into a hotel that afternoon. In addition to our Viking/Amazonian physiques we had all of our suitcases, pillows, blankets, backpacks, shoes and a crock pot. Have I mentioned I had emphatically stated I would not sleep in the van again? Yeah, we slept in the van that night. Beautiful fluffy snowflakes were falling all around, Aaron woke up every 45 minutes or so to start the van and make sure we stayed warm. We were in continual danger of being smashed into by other vehicles. All the good old southern boys were beyond excited that there was snow and ice and were giddily spinning out and doing donuts in the parking lot all night long. In addition to having to start the van every so often, Aaron wasn’t letting himself sleep much because he was worried police would come over to ticket and question us for being in the parking lot all night. I told him to just sleep because I hoped they would come to the van and question us. I’d tell them exactly what was going on and if they didn’t like it they could pay for the hotel so we wouldn’t have to be sitting in the parking lot. Stupid situations and lack of sleep bring out the snarky in me. No police showed up so I was spared the guilt of my snarky actually being seen. I started reading my Bible and going through my devotionals to try to keep myself from completely freaking out. The verse of the day was Philippians 4:13 ~ “I can do all everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Rather ironic because Paul is referring to the fact that he has lived with everything and lived with nothing and has learned to be content. Well played, God. My snarky went back to the corner and sat down.
Finally at 3:00am our money was in our account. I made the reservation for a hotel and we started driving back to Franklin. The snow had stopped for awhile but was starting up again and we figured we’d better head out before it got really bad. If we were going to be stuck sleeping in a parking lot any longer it may as well be the hotel parking lot. I went to the front desk at 6:30 a.m. hoping that someone would be merciful and we could get in the hotel right away. No luck! To get in at that time they’d have to charge us an extra day. They said to come back around noon to see if any room were vacated by then. Lovely. Back to waiting in the van. In addition to all the other happy things going on, Isabella still hadn’t completely recovered from her previous cold and was now puking and had diarrhea. We had to quickly get to a gas station before we had a nasty situation in the van.
At noon I checked back at the hotel to find different people on staff who were not so willing to be nice and helpful. I was told rather condescendingly that I would not be able to have a room until 3:00 p.m. because that is check in time and that because I had placed my reservation on Priceline they had chosen the first available room, which happened to be a single king bed. If I wanted to change that it would be an additional $20/night. Lovelier and lovelier. Lack of sleep and overwrought emotions were completely at war in me at this point so I turned around without saying a word and left the hotel. I didn’t know if I was going to go silver back ape on them or if I was going to burst into tears. I didn’t like either option so I left and got back in the van. As soon as I sat down a million questions started and then whining about not being able to get the room, thus, my family was subjected to the silver back ape AND a tidal wave of tears. We went and sat at McDonald’s, ordered drinks and french fries and pouted that we couldn’t get into the hotel yet. We had been in the van, either just sitting there or sleeping, for 30hrs. Because we were beyond done with sitting in there, we sat at McDonald’s for 3 hours waiting for check-in. I was actually a little nervous about this hotel. We had reserved it on Priceline by the “name your own price” deal so we didn’t have any say in which hotel we got. It was one of those motels you see in the movies where all the doors open to the outside and the upper level has a balcony and killers, kidnappers, prostitutes and drug dealers are always lurking about. It didn’t look quite THAT gruesome, but it was close enough to make me wary. I went to check in and the owners were at the front desk. They were beyond kind! Very, very helpful and told me anytime I found a deal online that I should call them directly and they would match it and I wouldn’t have to deal with Priceline’s limitations. We were not able to cancel with Priceline and change our room because they have a “no cancellations” policy, but that was OK, I was already feeling better because the owners were so nice. They gave me our room number and key and we drove to it. Thankfully it was a ground floor unit and we were able to back in, open the back of the van, open the room door and start throwing stuff in the room. Literally. It was still snicing (snow/ice) and we were not messing around with being in that anymore. The room was wonderful!! Pretty sure I broke out in the “Hallelujah” chorus. It wasn’t opulent or fancy in any way, but it was clean, mamma’s love clean. We got all of our things situated, some food started in the crock pot, and plopped on the big king size bed and vegged out on the Discovery Channel.
While we had been sitting in the Kroger parking lot on Tuesday Aaron was praying about our situation and asking God to show him if we were on a path we shouldn’t be on or if there was something we should have heard and didn’t. He was also expressing his frustration with everything and asking God why he doesn’t speak more clearly. In the middle of this prayer a truck drove up and stopped at the front doors to let someone out. Aaron felt that God said to contact the person in the truck. This did not thrill Aaron. He thought, “Really?! We’re sitting in our van in the freezing cold with nowhere to go and I’m asking you to show me what to do and you tell me to contact the person in the truck??!!” So he looks at the truck and sees that there is a decal on it that says “Deer Run”. He reluctantly Googled the place, found a website and sent an email to them. Within a couple of hours the owner emailed back and said he wanted to meet the following day. Aaron braved the icy roads to meet with this man from Deer Run. Aaron decided that he wasn’t going to hold back in the meeting. If God said he was supposed to meet with this guy that’s what he’d do, and he’d tell him our whole crazy story to see what he’d have to say. He got to the restaurant, introduced himself and they sat and talked for 2 hours. Aaron laid out our story, which didn’t appear to phase the man at all. Then the man laid out his story about how Deer Run began, and Aaron began to see why our story didn’t phase him. At the end of their conversation David said to Aaron, “Just keep going. I can see where your heart is. You’re obeying the Lord. Keep going.” In the end, even though it wasn’t the direction Aaron was looking for, God used that meeting to encourage Aaron and to open up a new friendship. The verse of the day on our Bible app was Psalm 119:2 ~ “Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.”
Tuesday February 24, 2015
We stayed at the hotel until Saturday afternoon. We were going to stay one more night, but would have been left with only $10, so we decided not to. On our way back to our friend’s house we talked about how we can’t wait to be in our own home again. Alex said he was tired of living with other people because he always feels like an inconvenience. We all admitted to having that same feeling and prayed that God would provide a way for us to have our own home again.
On Sunday our friend needed to record again so we needed to be out of their house all day. On our way to church we talked about needing to get to the point where we absolutely and completely trust God. No panicking, no worrying, simply rest and trust. Because of the weather and the lack of road equipment to keep up with it the road were still, um, adventurous. As we got closer to the church I thought to myself, “We’re in the south. People don’t tough out the weather in the south. I bet they canceled church!” School was already canceled for Monday so I was almost positive church would be too. I found their Facebook page and sure enough, no services. Not only had we driven all that way on crazy, icy roads but there was no service. Our primary source of food came from the church’s food pantry. We weren’t really sure how we would be able to eat and put gas in the van. We all thought it was funny this happened right after our “trust and rest” conversation on the way there. Now our next conundrum was what to do for the rest of the day? The reason we had ventured out in the first place was because our friend needed to record. Most places were still closed. We talked it over for awhile and decided to see if a church that a bunch of kids from Alex’s theater group attend was having services. I found them online and they had canceled their early morning service, but were still having their 11:00 service. They had a guest speaker that morning, but the pastor shared a verse before introducing the speaker. He read from Nehemiah 8 then said, “Some of you are going through things that have torn you down and you’re weary and sad. But, the Lord is rebuilding your walls and when this is done you will be able to feast and rejoice. This is what God wants and he wants you to share your feast and your joy with the people around you.” So, we end up at a church we’ve never visited, and hadn’t even intended on visiting that day and God uses the pastor to speak to us the same message he’s spoken to us through others: Wait for me. I am rebuilding and restoring. Wait on me.
Thankfully the library was open in the afternoon, so we went there to kill some time. I sat there trying to figure out what on earth I was going to buy to be able to feed everyone for the week. I finally told Aaron that I felt like scheming to make this money last longer was really an indicator that I didn’t have faith that God would take care of us. Not that we would just blow the money on junk stuff, but we needed to buy what we need and when we run out God will give us more. I decided to go walk around the grocery store and wait for God to give me ideas on what to buy. I went in and almost right away had ideas for two meals. I figured if those were the ideas I got then God would make sure I had money for the rest of the week, so I bought the ingredients and spent $25. I remembered that Target has a deli special where if you buy 1 1/2lbs of lunch meat you get 1/2lb of cheese for free. I decided that we’d go get that for today. As I was in line I remembered that I had seen a Target gift card in my wallet earlier. I couldn’t remember when I had gotten it, or if it even had money on it. Who forgets about a Target gift card??!! My total came to $9.87. I handed the cashier the gift card saying that I wasn’t sure anything was on it, but give it a try. There was $10 on it, it paid for that whole meal!!
When we got back to our friends’ house that evening there was a package from my aunt and grandparents. They had sent us belated Valentine cards and candy. When I opened my card there was $40 in it. I felt like it was confirmation to me that if I will stop trying to scheme and hold onto things so tightly, money in particular, and simply buy what we need, God will always send provision when we need it. Which is another lesson that I think has been on repeat. God is waiting for us to actually get it. For it to be not only a head acknowledgment, but a heart acknowledgment as well.