The Best and Worst Graduation Day

Yesterday was a day for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I didn't sleep last night. It is much too early.

Some stories just have to be told.

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I'll cut to the chase. Yesterday morning, my husband graduated with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Dayton. In the evening, while we were celebrating at a delightful dinner at one of our favorites, Wheat Penny, our Prius was completely totaled while it was parked in meter parking by a distracted driver.

Here is the real story. Over a year ago now, maybe two, we decided to give our third vehicle, our little ford focus, to my brother in law Silas to help him get through school. I don't tell you that to brag. It was definitely in need of repairs and we simply did not need it at the time. It was an extra in case something happened to ours or someone needed it in our community. God has been teaching us that we have "all things in common" (Acts 2:44) and that we "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). 

A few months ago, we found ourselves in the same such need as Silas was. Our Prius was in need of a 2000 dollar repair. We had started saving for a mini van at the time, but was nowhere close to buying one. In the past year, we have been praying through the question of whether or not to grow our family via adoption. Long story short, this fall, an organization called Safe Families got our attention. It is a Christian organization committed to Biblical hospitality for vulnerable families. Unexpectedly, God led us to this organization and we prayerfully gave it a yes!

We submitted our application to become a host family this past week. We knew that we didn't have a car yet to be able hold more children, but felt like God was calling us to be obedient to just start the process. This past week Tim and I have been brainstorming ways to make our house more usable for safe families. Longer table? More beds? We keep feeling like we should have more or be different somehow to be used by God in this area.

Back to the transportation issue. The van has always been the biggest need. If we bought one with the savings we had at the time of our Prius breaking down, it would have to be very used. We may very well be in a broken down situation in another year. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Pay 2000 dollars for a car we wouldn't be using soon but needed NOW or buy a risky van? Not a good choice to have to make.

As I wrote in October, two different couple friends of ours from our church lent us their vehicles to get us through Tim's dissertation so he would be able to fix our Prius on his own, pay for the part and not the labor, giving us more time with the Prius and more time to save for a better mini van. We feel very confident that if there is another way to get from here to there without going into debt, that this is the way God would have our family to go. So we estimated with our rate of savings, we would be able to buy a slightly used, stable van by Christmas of next year. We have been driving around the Herr's station wagon for the better part of two months now. We submitted our host family application knowing for certain that God's timing is perfect, and that the body of Christ loves to provide what we lack.

I think God intended it this way so we wouldn't get prideful or play the hero. Orphan care is a job for everyone in the church. If I have the house and someone else has the car, who am I to say what God has given me is wrong or not enough or rob another from playing their role as I play mine? I'm not God, and our car situation has proven that to me time and time again. Even as we accept the title of PhD in our family, God humbles us by taking away a vehicle that we came to depend upon, perhaps to remind us that these earthly securities are nothing if we are not secure first and foremost in our Savior. They are nothing but gifts. He is the Giver, and oh how good He is to us! He gives us gifts, each other, purpose, but most importantly, HIMSELF!

 My love in all his PhD jingles and jangles!

My love in all his PhD jingles and jangles!

The Prius was finally fixed on Friday and we drove it to graduation yesterday morning. In the afternoon, Tim drove all around town with his dad trying to find an open car wash place to give the Herr's wagon back to them in pristine condition (they don't care about this, but we do.) We returned it, and took our car out to Tim's celebratory dinner. Tim couldn't find a parking spot in the lot, so he dropped the boys and I off at the door and found a metered spot on Wayne Avenue.

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While we were finishing up, the restaurant hostess, sweet Lainie, came over to ask if we had a Prius. Immediately I thought, "Oh no, we must have got a ticket or got towed!" But she told us just to turn around and look behind us through the window. There was our car, obliterated from behind and catapulted into the parked car in front of us, sandwiched from behind by the offending car. In Titus' words, it was "SMASHED CRASHED!" The driver was not under the influence of any substances that we know of, but was simply distracted. We thank God  that neither him or the woman and their child in the car with him were injured. And we thank God that we were safe inside the entire time.

We were all sort of in a state of shock at the restaurant. Tim was outside the whole time without his coat, working with the police and arranging for tow trucks and insurance while I stayed inside with my in-laws and the boys. There were moments I was very close to breaking down, but then Titus started to ask me what was wrong and I didn't want to scare the boys. The hostess came over to talk with me for a long time, asked me if there was anything I needed, and showed me great compassion. The manager came to tell us our meal was going to be half off, but upon hearing that it was Tim's graduation dinner, gave us the entire meal and ice cream for our kids on the house. Wheat Penny has always been a favorite for us before, but now it is THE favorite. They are so kind.

After a while, Tim's dad came back inside to take the boys and I, Mom Diane, and Lydia home, as Tim would be sorting things out with various parties for awhile. In that span of time, we put the boys to bed, and I began texting with my friends and family to tell them what happened and to process some things. I was very worried about how we would get home for Christmas. That may seem shallow after escaping what could have been a fatal accident for us, but I've been quarantined with my babies in our home for the better part of ten days now due to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. After finishing a very rigorous PhD program, Tim and I desperately need some R&R, away with our families. I was also very sad for Tim, who had worked so hard both on the PhD and the car. I want so badly for him to have a day to celebrate and not bear the weight of the world.

Yet, I felt a peace, as I always do, when I'm reminded how all we really have in the long run is the Lord. Sometimes He gives us a position of less, so He can be more. David had a few stones with which he slew Goliath. The child in faith gave his fishes and loaves which Jesus used to feed a multitude. Mary was young and unmarried, without means to properly raise the Savior of the Universe. 

And yet.

With the Lord, all things are possible. And not only possible, but immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

Once Tim and Dad Vincent got home, Dad and Mom Vincent sat down with us and told us they would like to give us their mini van after Christmas. In my shock and just utter bankruptcy of emotional energy, I could not quite convey the swell of gratefulness. Mom was trying to talk the gift down- there are things that are annoying, there are hubcap and tire pressure problems, a head rest doesn't stay up, but we could at least have it for this year while we save for the real deal. But all I could see is gift. All I could hear was God saying, "I am more than enough." 

I am the way, the truth, and the life.
— John 14:6

And He doesn't miss a beat. 

Most likely, we will use a rental provided through our insurance to get to Christmas next week in Michigan. I trust, as He has CLEARLY been in control the entire time, He has a plan for both the large and big details in the days ahead.

I write this to encourage you all. You may not think you have much to give. You may see only the obstacles in your way. You may be asking God a lot of why or how questions. 

I'm reminded of Titus' "I" Bible verse this week. We have been working through verse ABC's, one verse for each letter of the alphabet. This week was "I am the way, the truth, and the life." 

He is everything. When you have Jesus, you truly have it all. It definitely won't be the way you think it would be. No, but it will be better. 

As Karen Holdeman reminded us on the DWITW podcast last week, God works all things for good in order to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Perhaps my greatest hope in this whole ordeal is that God is using it to conform us to the image of His Son, that others may see the undeniable hope of Jesus within us. As so many are in need of our Savior, I pray He will use us like He used the star to lead the wise men and the angels to tell the shepherds.

Use us as your beacons, Lord. We are so willing, and you are so ABLE!

It is too much, O Lord! It is too much for me. If it please You, give these kinds of favors and consolations to sinners and to the people who don’t know You, in order to attract them to Your service. As for me, who has the happiness of knowing You by faith, I think that must be sufficient. Still, because I should not refuse anything from a hand so rich and generous as yours, I accept, O my God, the favors You give me. Yet grant if it please You, that after having received them, I may return them just as You gave them to me; for You well know that it is not Your gifts that I seek and desire, but Yourself, and I can be content with nothing less.
— The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence