Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Missouri Loves Company

Last week, shrugging off advice we rent, we’d driven our one vehicle, an older, high mileage Silhouette threatening to strand us, to Tulsa. Excessively emboldened by our trouble-free trip, we left for Tulsa this time serene in the confidence of last week’s precedent.

I don’t expect I’ll drive to Tulsa again without stopping to see my sweet friend, Missouri Lighthouse coordinator Elaine. On Friday, we’d made good enough time through the night to justify a lengthy visit. Elaine and her husband Kenny own a car dealership in St. Robert. Per our request, they’d been watching for a van in our price range to replace the Silhouette. Elaine was working, so we visited her at the lot. Walking into the showroom, we laughed that the trade-in value of our wheels was surely rising with its reliability on our frequent Tulsa runs. After a three hour stop, we waved goodbye and hurried on our way.

I-44 in central Missouri is a scenic route wending through tree-crowned hills and limestone outcroppings. It was a scorcher, and as the van labored up a hill near Conway, 45 miles west of St. Robert, it became clear we’d taken it one trip too far. Providentially, we were near a downhill exit so the van coasted off the interstate. In my humiliation pushing it to a gas station, I had visions of Julie arriving at the airport, new brood in tow, oblivious to the extent we’d gone through to greet them there. Adding to the comedic inconvenience, our cell phone chose this particular day not to work, so we were left to plead for techno-mercy from passersby. People always love my children, but this time we benefitted less from their charm than their urchin impersonations made doubly convincing by riding all night, then being stranded in the hot sun. Lent a phone, I called Elaine, scarcely recounting our woes before she became a take-charge Wonder Woman without my even asking. Bidding me not to worry, she promised to call in their driver, send a flatbed truck with a minivan we could take on to Tulsa, and take the disabled van back to the dealership. She also called my mother-in-law in Tulsa, telling her to go to the airport herself, since we’d likely be too late to make it.

Sitting at a gas station table in resignation, we consoled ourselves knowing Julie would realize it was the thought that counted. We cut a piteous enough pose that a station employee offered us a pizza she’d made in error. When the flatbed arrived, our things were ready and we leaped into the replacement van. With a little more than three hours and 220 miles to go to Tulsa, it seemed remotely possible that with smooth sailing, we might make it in time to the airport if we hurried.

Entering Oklahoma, we’d made great headway, so I made my welcome sign en route. Close to the airport, we found that, not only would we be punctual, but we would be early. When Julie, Dave, their two biological sons, and three new children entered the waiting area, our family was there waiting, looking like we’d spent the day by a busy road, but waiting nonetheless. How delightful to surprise my serially hosting friends, to finally meet Vladimir, and to hug, then hug again! I wanted Julie to know how special her adoption was to us, and I think she understood.

Elaine called later while we were at dinner and said we could take the van back to Michigan while we looked for something else. But after our 220-mile test drive and the impeccable service of Mid-Missouri Motors, we were interested in the van Elaine and Kenny had graciously lent us. Our van shopping had been conveniently completed alongside the Missouri interstate-- no going to look, no wondering about color, just grab it and go, no fuss at all.

On our way back home today, we went through a toll booth in Oklahoma. The same collector from last week saw our kids in the back and told Randy, “Be careful driving. I see you’ve got precious cargo there!” Even the toll people are friendly in Oklahoma; it’s one of the reasons, besides being Julie’s home, that I love coordinating Lighthouse trips there. Through Rolla, we stopped again to see Elaine, Kenny, and their kids at home; we showed off our new van, but they acted like they’d seen it before. Seeing them on weekends could be habit-forming.

Blessed emotionally last week’s trip, we were blessed physically this trip with providential care at every turn. We broke down close enough to Elaine at a time she could help us, we got an especially long test drive of a vehicle we needed anyway, and we avoided a trip to Missouri later to look at other vehicles, all in time to see dear friends come home. As if that weren’t enough, the deal was sweetened with free pizza.

Sometimes I wonder why people are so nice to us. The answer is God directs us every step of our way, putting us where we need to be, when we need to be there, and allowing us to meet those we need to meet. As we have blessed, we have been smothered in blessings. God has been good to us again and again. And now He wants to use us to bless others.