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Just Because She Carries It Well Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Heavy

Just Because She Carries It Well Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Heavy

“It feels as if most areas of my life are very uncomfortable,” I thought as I carefully shut the door of my 19-year-old Dodge Durango. It makes a terrible creaking noise and I’m kind of afraid it might fall off the hinge onto my feet whenever it swings. The car has over 200,000 miles on it, and I feel a sheepish guilt each time I strap my 2-year-old and 1-year-old into it. The AC is wimpy at best, but it’s better than our Hyundai Elantra that my husband drives which just blows hot air. Did I mention we live in SW Florida?

I’m pretty good at overlooking frustrations and reframing disappointments to focus on what I’m learning and gaining. But sometimes the fabric of my life feels like burlap, and it’s wearing on me. Sometimes I can’t take another step forward without inspecting the blisters.

Will I ever really make it out of the tunnel and into the light? Is there even light ahead? That’s what I’m pushing for after all, but what if it’s just a mirage that I’ve created to cope with the toil? I’m frustrated, weary, discouraged, and sad.

So, I Talk to God.

I tell him about the needs and the lack of resources.

I tell him I can’t meet them on my own.

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I ask him to provide.

I tell him that I’m sorry for idolizing comfort and security.

I thank him for how this is softening me, teaching me, and helping me to think more like one of his children.

I ask him to show me what it means to have every spiritual blessing that he provided through Christ.

I ask him to give me a mindset that counts all things as loss in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

I ask him to give me a heart that values what he values more than what my sick heart desires.

I ask him to show up in my life—to be able to sense his presence which is the greatest comfort of all.

I ask him to give me an eternal perspective when I can’t understand what meets the eye.

I tell him honestly, Lord, I need a win.

As I speak my weaknesses out to him, he fills me with grace. And his grace gives me strength to endure. His grace looks at my scratchy sackcloth and replaces it with fine linen (the breathable kind because, hey, I’m in SWFL with wimpy AC). His strength speaks into the tunnel I’m in and says, “It’s not an illusion, it’s a vision—and I gave it to you. Hop on my back, I’ll carry you for a while.”

It’s then that I realize the uncomfortable fabric I’m wearing serves a purpose. Like sandpaper, it’s smoothing out my sharp edges. But, I must also remember that the sandpaper is in the hand of well-reputed carpenter, and he’s making me into something beautiful and useful—a tool fit for his use… The very thing I prayed to become during one of these talks we had before. My heart settles as it leans back onto his past faithfulness.

Okay, God, I feel weird asking for this, but I really want a new car, I pray.

And then I kind of forgot about it. Until one week later when our little family piled into the Durango for an outing…

One Week Later…

BAM.

We all jolt forward from the rear impact. I turn around; both kids are fine—smiling even. My husband and I check on one another—we’re good. I look in the side mirror and see the small SUV that rammed into us and the front end is smashed in. It’s totaled, I’m sure.

Holy cow, maybe this is it! I think.

Maybe this is how you’re going to answer my prayer, God!

We pull to the side of the road, call the police, and inspect the damage. Except, there was no damage done to our Durango. It looked like it was hit by a shopping cart. “That thing is a tank,” I thought.

I’m embarrassed to admit I was disappointed that this was not, in fact, my ticket to a new car. But as we drove away with two smiling children, I found myself thanking God that our Durango is a tank.

The next day my husband was off work, so I ran to the Dollar Store solo. Christmas was less than a week away and I needed to grab some wrapping supplies. I hopped out of the car, gently shut the door, and started walking in. But for some reason, I felt an urge to turn and look at the car…

Whooosh. Gallons of fluid poured out of the front end.

Poooof. A huge puff of smoke billowed from the hood.

And it just kept coming… all of it. I wondered if it was going to flood the whole row of parking spaces. I feared it might actually explode. But I couldn’t move. I stared, wide-eyed, for what felt like 10 minutes until it slowly stopped. People walked by me with glances of sympathy, but I hardly noticed because all I was thinking is, “What in the world are you doing, God?”

I text my husband: “I think something happened to the Durango.”

Incoming FaceTime from Stephen.

“What’s going on?” He asks.

“Uhhhh… the car… it kind of… blew up,” I say and show him the aftermath.

Waiting for my ride, I walk into the Dollar Tree in a daze. I float down the aisles, but my mind is in another world.

I can’t believe it. I think this is really it. I think you really did it, God! I know I asked for a better car, but…whoa…holy cow… this is crazy!  

(My real prayers are not very eloquent.)

I’ll never forget that moment—when God, prayer, and my relationship with him felt as real and tangible as anything else on this planet. I was baffled and in awe all at once. I had no idea how we could actually afford a better car, but confidence flooded my body as coolant flooded that parking lot.

So, We Began the Car Hunt.

My husband, a pastor, majored in finance and carries an MBA. He loves crunching numbers and making spreadsheets almost as much as he loves shepherding souls. So, he counted, calculated, and built a new spreadsheet to figure out just how much we could spend responsibly. With a certain number in mind, we eagerly started the car hunt.

Since this was going to be our family car, and considering the experience we just had with the Durango, Stephen really wanted us in another tank. We kind of had our heart set on a used Honda Pilot. We have a family friend who’s been a master mechanic for years (first at Honda and now at Acura), so we knew he could help us with any work we might need in the future if we went with a Honda.

We looked online, visited a couple dealerships, test drove a few, and even traveled out to a random small town to check out a deal that seemed too good to be true. It was, in fact, too good to be true.

I’ll never forget driving away from that one because we were both a little heartbroken. I was bummed we couldn’t get what we really wanted, but I could also see that my husband was bummed he couldn’t get it for us. That was the real dagger. I smiled, held his hand, and prayed in my heart as I looked out the window. I was ready to settle for something less than what we hoped for and reminded myself that as long as it had enough seat belts (and AC, please let it have AC!) I would be happy.

We Found the Perfect Car, But…

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It was Christmas Eve. My dad sent me a text with a link to a car at the Acura dealership where he and my mom’s friend now works. I hadn’t thought to look there simply because I figured Acura was out of our price range. But there it was… a big, black, beautiful Acura MDX (which is the upgraded version of a Honda Pilot, I came to discover), and it was only slightly above our number. It was used, yes, but only had 32k miles on it (less than half the miles we were willing to consider). It was 10 years old, yes, but it looked like it had been sitting in a garage for all of those 10 years. Another deal that seemed too good to be true, but this time it was at a reputable location.

I wanted to go see it that second, but it was Christmas Eve and I knew Stephen had to be at the church the majority of the day. I was afraid someone else might get to it before us, so I texted my dad to see if he could go with me. He was also at work, but asked our family friend at the dealership to see if he could get any more information on it.

The car had just come in, the car facts were clean, it had been hardly used but routinely maintained, and the dealership had serviced it completely; it was, in fact, a great deal.

I called to set an appointment for the earliest date we could be there, but I still felt a little sad we couldn’t go that day. I prayed, “God, if this is the car for us, keep it for us until we can get there.”

A Christmas Eve Surprise

Our kids had a cold, so I stayed home with them while Stephen was at church for the Christmas Eve services. Shortly after, he called to let me know he was on his way home. He walked in the door, suit jacket slung over his shoulder, and said, “Hey, can you help me bring in a few things from the car?”

“Sure!” I chirped with a suspicious feeling.

And there it was in real life—that big, beautiful, black car—sitting in my driveway under the Christmas Eve stars. Half shocked, half crying, half laughing (I know those fractions don’t add up, that’s why my husband does the math around here), all I could say was, “How?!”

The story of all that happened that day was told…

My dad called the dealership and they said someone was on their way for the car, but if we could get there first then they couldn’t do anything about that… So he left work, beat those people by a nanosecond (he actually snuck by them in the dealership and got to the key first). He took it for a test drive and somehow convinced them to let him have it for a couple days so we could test drive it. He brought it to church to surprise us, but didn’t realize I stayed home with the kids, so he gave the key to my husband and let him share in the surprise. It was the best surprise I’ve ever received.

So, what did we do? Stephen and I got our sniffling kids out of bed and put them into that magnificent, new-used car to drive around and look at Christmas lights.

That Christmas was nothing short of magical, not because of that beautiful car that my husband did end up buying for us; but because I realized just how much I was loved, and it felt weighty. To know that the two men I love more than anything in the world went to such great lengths to do something so generous and kind for me left me undone. And to know that the Lord was the one who was ultimately behind it all was the sweetest part of all. How personal and caring was he to listen to my prayers, see my desires, and then blow them out of the water with the nicer version of what I really wanted yet didn’t even know existed.

For a long time, I couldn’t help but cry every time I drove that car. It was everything I had prayed for and more: comfortable, reliable, and so much cooler! I was grateful to put my babies in it. More than anything, it is a constant reminder to me of the power of prayer, the fact that God does listen to his children and care about them, and that he’s always working behind the scenes even when I don’t see it or feel it. But whenever I am in that car, I see it, I feel it, and know that I know it.

It was one of those moments when faith becomes sight, and it fuels us for the road ahead.

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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Don’t be fooled by Ashley’s quiet presence. She’s an internal processor who just might overthink from time to time. When she’s not caught up in her thoughts, she’s usually writing them or enjoying the thoughts of others. She’s a wife, new mom, and lover of all things pretty.

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