12/31/10

our Ford Explorer saga

Two weeks ago, Cathy & I drove up Greenlawn Ave heading toward my house, and when we took the left turn onto Cedar, I accelerated out of the turn in hope of fishtailing a little bit on the snow before straightening out, which I enjoy and feel like a race car driver when I do it. This time, instead of straightening out, my Explorer continued to rotate and turn on the ice, eventually sliding perpendicular to path of the road. We were slowing down, but not enough to avoid hopping the curb and giving a tree a little tap. It didn't sound too bad, but when I got out and looked, I saw a bumper bent in, headlights on one side cracked open, and the impact bending a side fender, contorting the wheel well. My heart dropped a little bit, I grimaced, and asked myself and Cathy why I had decided to do that. Approaching the holidays and the wedding, we did not need any new complications.

We had a full day planned, so I put it out of my mind and decided I would get a quote on the repairs from Jordan Auto in Mishawaka, and thanked God that the damage did not affect our plans for the day. We then commenced and completed our Christmas shopping, putting a non-trivial dent in my available funds.

Monday, I dropped off Cathy at work and then had Jordan Auto estimate the repairs. As they showed me the multi-page breakdown of everything it would involve, my shock gradually grew. At the bottom of each page I thought there was the final subtotal, yet more continued to be added. The final total was roughly 1.5 to 2 months of pay at my job, depending on how extensive any internal damage was. I said that I would think about it and get back with them, and walked out the door. Suddenly the free oil change from Rick's Auto Shop for Christmas seemed like a joke. I couldn't believe this was happening, and I knew it was entirely my fault, and that we were already spending large amounts of money on a large wedding and this is not the most responsible precursor to married life and whatever other depressing jabs satan wanted to hit me with. I despaired over it all. A minute or two later, I began to turn from the despair and decide that this is life and the Father loves me and we're all in this together, that I needn't give in to the tendency to slide away from those who love me.

I knew that my minimal insurance wouldn't cover it so I decided I would call them anyway just to double check. For repair work not covered by insurance, they recommended a mechanic they know who does side jobs. It sounded risky, not knowing Dan, but I trust the office of my insurance agent, Rich Was. I called Dan and he told me he could blow their estimate out of the water and would be happy to come look at it. Meanwhile, we are 2 days away from driving down to Muncie for a 6-day Christmas road trip to Charlotte.

I drive the Explorer across town to Dan. He looks at it, asks our preference on whether to fix it A) like new, B) to look ok but perfectly functional, or C) simply functional. B was our choice, and he sat at a computer and made some phone calls asking around for used parts and came up with an estimate at 45% of the lowest estimate Jordan had provided. I tried to keep a straight face when he gave me his estimate and told me he could do it in the same amount of time Jordan could. He needed it all in cash, and half up-front so that he could purchase parts. It's surprising how a day's events can leave me happy with repair work costing me 3 weeks of pay, but that's just how I felt. A large manuscript on the back wall of the office Dan used said, "This shop the Lord has made."

Cathy and I decided to risk it and give Dan a pile of cash based entirely on one trustworthy recommendation and the spirit of support and honesty I felt present at the shop when I visited. We then had to get a car to drive down and leave in Muncie for nearly a week over Christmas. That could have easily been another $250 for a rental, but our friend Joe Gleason who was flying to MN for Christmas amazingly offered the use of his convertible for free!

We cautiously bridled our excitement until making sure that this repair job went as advertised. When we got back and looked over the work, I was happy to give Dan the second pile of cash. I think what I am even more happy about is evidence that our Father would care for me and respond to my surrender to Him. The sum balance of blessings in the month of December, from wedding-related gifts to shared transportation to contracts at work to a beautiful home being prepared for us to people giving us their time in wedding planning, far outweigh and pale the mistake I faced with the Explorer.

Some days, the Lord's blessings are more spiritual than seemingly physical, but not this day.