So the Plan was to leave around nine this morning. We'd drive for maybe three hours, stop for a leisurely lunch, and then continue on while the boys took their afternoon nap, arriving at the home of Grant and Riley Graves in Chattanooga, Tennesseee where we'd spend the night. Sunday we'd spend the day with Grant and Riley and then leave out around 10 pm, drive through the night and arrive in the vicinity of Anna Maria Island, Florida sometime the next morning where we'd meet up with my mom, brother, sister and the rest of the family and enjoy a couple of sun-soaked days at the beach.
Needless to say, things did not go as planned.
And you know what? Remarkably, I"m okay with it.
I love to plan. It literally makes me feel better to sit down and plan out what I'm going to do in the next week, the next day, even the next hour. I am the guy, who even as a kid made a meticulous hour by hour daily schedule for my summer vacations. And because I love to plan, I really, really hate it when things don't go as planned. I'm not what you'd call flexible. Or at least I wasn't until today.
Well, actually, I started out the day as inflexible as always. The first thing to go awry was that we were not ready to leave at nine. Or ten. Or eleven. I was peeved to put it mildly. But God was already working on me. Over the course of the morning as I waited with varying degrees of patience for my loved ones to be ready, I came to the realization that I needed to let it go. I needed to let go of the Plan. The reality was that when we left was outside of my control, and trying to control it would only aggravate my wife and children and leave me all the more frustrated. I began to realize that you can make a plan, but many times that plan doesn't pan out. And at that point, I had a choice: to either be okay with it or not. I won't say I'd come entirely to peace by the time we headed out on the road around 1:40 P.M., but I was at least at the point of acceptance.
Peace would come later, when the plan really fell apart. About 22 miles outside of Columbus, the air conditioner suddenly starting blowing hot air. The battery warning light flashed on, quickly followed by the check engine light, and the temperature quickly shot up into the red. I had a flashback to the oil leak that led my 1990 Corolla to seize up on similar stretch of Ohio interstate 15 years ago. I ended up selling that car for $300 for parts so great was the damage to the engine. I quickly got off at the nearest exit. After trying to reach a towing company and talking to a few passing strangers, I was under the impression that I might be able to get us back home at least. After all the car hadn't stalled. So we began to head back home, but in just a few minutes the temperature gauge was back in the red. The towing company called me back and when I described my situation they told me to get off the road posthaste before I did some serious damage to my car (Of course Babs had told me this already, but I wasn't listening. You'd think I'd have learned by now, after having seen her wisdom time and again, that you know, she might know a thing or two. But I was being the stereotypical hardheaded husband). So we pulled off at the next exit and the car gave up the ghost just as we turned off the ramp, with a couple of gas stations just a couple hundred yards down the road.
We were definitely and truly stuck and one thing was certain: We wouldn't be going anywhere today. And what was amazing, is that I had total peace. It was like, "Okay, Lord. I got it. Plans change. Roll with it." And I realized that we were truly blessed. It turned out that the serpentine belt had snapped (or fallen off, whatever the case, it was completely gone). I don't know how long it would have taken for this to happen but if it had not happened until we were well into our trip--if we'd be on schedule as I'd wanted to be--we might have been stranded half way between Columbus and Chattanooga. As it was, we were close to home. Our good friends Albert and Anastasia Bailey came to our rescue with Albert driving out to take Babs and the kids home while I waited with the car. After I got towed to the Toyota dealership just minutes from our house, Marc Lavalas, husband of my colleague Lisa and all-around cool guy came out of his way to take me home. Beyond, all that was the grateful realization was that what had happened to us really wasn't all that bad. We are healthy and alive. We'll sleep in the comfort of our own beds tonight. Compared to all the horrors that could happen to us at any time--when I consider that I might throw on my favorite Oregon Ducks hoodie, head down to the Wal-Greens on the corner for some iced tea and candy and never come back--this mishap really was small potatoes.
And I felt that God just showered me with his love and grace all throughout this beautiful sunshiney Sabbath afternoon.. Numerous people stopped to ask if I was okay and needed help. One gentleman who lived just down the road checked on me more than once and he and his wife bought me a burger and fries, and a tall iced tea because they thought I might be hungry. Roy from RAM Towing responded with grace I'm sure he didn't feel when after calling him over, I decided to wait for Toyota Roadside Assistance instead. (I'm not a jerk, really I'm not. Just too poor to risk not getting reimbursed for using a company not in Toyota's network. Course, if I'd listened to Babs--again--who told me to call Toyota first in the first place. . .) He could have been really rude about it (and been within his rights to be so) but he wasn't, and that alone gives me a fine impression of their customer service--even if I elected not to receive it. Danny, at Broad & James Towing, who did tow me back, was an awesome guy and I enjoyed learning more about the towing business and some of his fascinating experiences on the drive back to the city. Toyota covered the first $100 of my tow and I paid all of $2.75 out of pocket. After all this, I got home in time to hang out with Elijah on the balcony and enjoy a lovely evening, and read him his Bible stories. For a day that went completely awry in terms of my Plan, it was a really nice day.
Tomorrow? I'll be at the Toyota dealership first thing in the morning, and I'm hoping that the serpentine belt is all that needs to be fixed, that I did no further damage to the engine, and that we might yet be able to make it to Anna Maria Island by Monday. That's the plan anyway. But I can't say for sure. I'm learning, that while it's fun to plan and schedule, God's the only one that has a plan for me that's not subject to change, to give me a future and a hope. How that plays out remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I'll make it my goal to trust Him more.