I should start with our housing situation. We're currently in a condo. A small condo that (we feel) is overpriced. With our lease coming to an end, we've been scouring Craigslist, Trulia and the classifieds for rentals around town.
From this I've gathered: House hunting can (could) be a lot of fun. However, when you're working with a low budget, its not. Not fun at all. It's actually the opposite. And its frustrating and basically I'm over it.
Almost every prayer of mine begins and ends with "PLEASE Lord help this housing situation work out!" In fact, yesterday, I was talking on the phone with Misty about it, and I remember saying, "I wish God would just stick this huge sign in my face telling us what to do!"
Last night we walked through a home in the Shores area. It was huge- (huge to us) 1600 square feet of glorious space! This house even had a "bonus" room for toys. It was the first time I had left a house viewing (down here in Florida) excited. It was fifty over our budget, but we figured it was worth it for the extra space. And to boot, the real estate agent made it sound like the renter wanted this place rented ASAP. So when we asked if she'd come down 100/month in rent if we were to sign a 24 month lease, we were pretty sure it was a done deal. Ryan and I spent the night filling out the applications and going over numbers. Even as a late night email arrived, telling us that the owner was firm, not budging with the rent, we kept on pursuing this house.
This morning, I was supposed to drop off our application along with the $175.00 check to the real estate office.
I was right on time, with all the kids, happily eating Paneras in the back seat. Traveling on US1 (a 4 lane highway), I merged to the inside lane, so I could do a u-turn. The office was on the opposite side of the road, so I had to make a left turn. As I went to do the u-turn, my steering wheel locked, the car became silent and I drifted slowwwwwwly out into the middle of the high way. It felt like minutes that the van was sideways on this 2 lane highway. By the grace of God, there were no cars coming. And (in reality, what was) in a few seconds I had drifted far enough over onto the side of the road and was able to finally take a breath. We weren't in the line of direct fire... phew!
I took inventory of our sitch; In the middle of a church driveway. On the side of the highway. Three kids. Car shut down. Incredibly hot and sweaty. Cars zipping by, incredibly close to our van. Husband in Jacksonville. Dad teaching. Mom on her way to Jacksonville. I think this was my train of thoughts... maybe not in that order, regardless they were all thought.
I must have been mumbling something, or acting strangely, because Maeve piped up from the backseat, "Mom is our car working?"
"Ummm. No. Ummm... hold on."
I got on the phone with Ryan and explained the situation. He immediately called for a tow, and started for Saint Augustine.
In the meantime, I had to figure out what to do with my three littles in the stifling van, on the edge of a very busy high way.
After a few calming breaths, and "get yourself together" thoughts, I hopped out and opened the sliding door (on the non-highway side) of the van. "Okay! We're going on an adventure!" I declared.
One by one, I unbuckled my kids, and toted them up a giant hill, to an empty, half shaded parking lot. As soon as I got the kids out of the car, and out of the general area of the high way my anxiety level went way down.
Within about five minutes, a good Samaritan stopped. He tried and tried to get my car to start or turn, or at the very least drift over so it wasn't so close to the whizzing cars. I could totally picture my stupid van being the cause of some horrible accident. I was waiting for someone to nick it; seriously- its a miracle everyone was paying attention on US1 today. (normally that's soooo not the case).
This man (I never got his name) was so sweet and kind. He watched my kids, while I made frantic phone calls to my sister and mom. He felt awful that he wasn't able to do anything. And after telling him a million times, I'd be fine waiting by myself, and that my sister was on her way, he finally felt comfortable enough to leave. Five minutes later, he was pulling back in, with drinks from a local gas station. What an awesome guy. He wished us luck, made sure we were okay (again) and drove off. And if I weren't so frenzied, I would have gotten his name and address to send him a thank you card.
About this time, I noticed Henry had pooped. And not just a normal poopy diaper. But an exploding one. HAAAAA. Just my luck.
I herded the kids over to a shaded corner of the parking lot and sat down, giving them instructions that they were not to go beyond the imaginary line I had drawn.
As they picked leaves, flowers and played their imaginary kid games, I sat and cried. I cried for a lot of reasons. Sure, what brought it on was the car breaking down. But I cried because I'm sick of living like this. I'm sick of cashing in WIC checks. I'm tired of staying up until 2 AM worrying about covering rent. I'm mad that my husband works SO, SO, SO hard and we're still at the bottom of the food chain. I'm mad that we lost our house in Michigan. I'm mad that my stupid dog pees all over our floor. I'm mad my photography business isn't what I want it to be. I'm mad at STUPID SNOOKI because she has a book deal (for reals... saw her book in Barnes & Noble last week). I'm mad that we've done everything "right" and this is where we are. Drowning in debt, a negative bank account and now a broken down car.
Thank God for my giant sunglasses because the next person to approach us was the pastor of the church of the parking lot we had taken over. Again, such a nice guy; He offered to let us come in and play in the nursery, use the bathrooms, get something to drink, etc.
I declined. I was embarrassed and was determined to get my litter (that's what it felt like- a stray mama cat, with her litter of abandoned kittens on the side of the road) home with as little intervention as possible.
And then the cop car pulled up. He neon tagged my van, explained that he'd call it in so the other officers would know this situation had already been taken care of, and like the others, drove off.
Sitting in my pathetic throes of sadness, a thought bubbled into my mind... this past Sunday, a good friend of ours, Wendy, led worship. She had gone over a certain verse, "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." I heard Wendy saying that verse, and emphasizing the word "ALL."
I wiped my eyes, looked up at the kids and started taking inventory of our situation again. This time however, making a mental list of what I was thankful for. Here's what came out:
- my kids. MY GOD, my kids- and I! We could have easily been hit at 70 mph and not be sitting in a parking lot right now.
- my husband, who is so devoted and hard working, he's leaving work to come and take his family home, and then driving the 45 minutes back to work to finish his day out.
- our pee smelling condo (thanks Lola). It's in a nice area and it has AC. And I wanted to be there so badly.
- the people God has put in my life... the people who were calling and texting, making sure we were okay and taken care of. (apparently one little instagram photo can cause a frenzy among friends?)
- the fact that we were broken down in Florida. And not Michigan.
- blue skies and sunshine
- palm trees
- this shaded area of parking lot
I got up and started taking pictures with my phone. I had it in my head that someday, we would look back on this and smile.
After 45 minutes or so of parking lot sitting, my sister showed up with her tiny Prius. She cranked the AC and we piled in, still waiting on the tow and Ryan.
It wasn't long until Ryan was pulling in the parking lot, switching car seats and taking over, like I knew he would.
When we were finally settled in his car (3 kids in car seats, in the back of a malibu= sight to be seen) I joked, as we were driving by the real estate office, "Oh hey! Want to drop off the application for that house we can't afford?"
And Ryan, my very level headed, down to earth guy, asked "Hey babe, do you believe in signs?" He knows I do. I'm always saying "God did this for a reason!"
He explained to me that the cost of the tow was going to be $175.00- the same exact amount of the check I was planning on dropping off that morning. And then he asked what I thought about staying in the condo, instead of moving. And I considered it on the drive home.
As I was getting the kids lunch, and Ryan was getting ready to head back to work, his phone rang. It was our current realtor. She was letting us know that if we decided to renew our lease, the owner would reduce our rent. I heard Ryan say, "Yeah! Yes! For sure!"
"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
And in that moment, I was hit with a humble pie (like I often am). As annoying, frustrating, and scary as this morning was, God had it all under control. He knew the master plan... He KNOWS the master plan. And even in this hard season of our lives, I've got to learn how to be thankful. Not just for things that make my day (like booking a photography session or scoring a good deal on groupon), but for the everyday things that make up my life.
In ALL circumstances be thankful. And while I'll trip and mess this lesson up again and again, today I've got it down. I'm thankful that God has us in His hands and is using us for His will. I know the plans He has for us are so much bigger and better than I can imagine. It may not be the way I think things should be at the moment. More often than not, I'm sure, I'll be tugging in the other direction, but thankfully I have a God who's holding me tight.
So today, I'm thankful for the broken van. I'm thankful for the inability to turn into the real estate office. I'm thankful that our van drifted over to safety. I'm thankful that in this awful circumstance, God had and always will have complete control. I'm thankful He's got the wheel... because obviously, (as evidenced this morning) I can't turn it alone.