Let hope keep you joyful, in trouble stand firm, persist in prayer.... Rom 12:12

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recyclables, Flat Tires & Grace

Fall has finally arrived! Today has been chilly with a misty rain falling off and on. By 5:00 I am tired and ready to get home and enjoy the evening with Sarah Day & Noah. Gary is working tonight, the first of three in a row, and the first night he's gone I always enjoy being just the three of us again. Of course tomorrow night I'll be missing him something awful!

I pull into my driveway and realize I've forgotten to stop at the container site and drop off the recyclables. My basket is full to overflowing and I really don't want to wait till Friday, the next day the site is open. So I turn around and head back, drop off all the recyclables in the appropriate containers, take a moment to feel good about being an environmentally responsible world citizen (never mind the gas I wasted doubling back), then head for home.

A really nasty and sadly familiar noise ensues. I carefully pull outside the gate (figure I'll be here a while and it's time for them to close up and go home), get out to look, and sure enough my front passenger tire is flat, rim on the ground. Did I mention Gary is at work tonight? In Wilkesboro - 50 miles away? I call two of my neighbors, hoping I could borrow their significant others, with no luck.

I reassure the nice man who oversees the site that I will be fine (implying that someone is on the way to help me) and encourage him to go ahead and leave. He's just out of the hospital, and is so worried because he can't help me with my tire.

After waving him on, I say bracingly to myself, "I am reasonably intelligent, I have a graduate degree for heaven's sake, I ought to be able to read the owner's manual and figure this out. Lots of folks know how to change a tire - it's high time I learned and what better way could there be than to do it myself?"

Get the spare tire out (and on my minivan that means winching it down from where it's secured under the van). Am amused that the owners manual has extensive directions, including labeled pictures, on how to put together the 3 straight metal pieces that you use to winch that down (here's a big hint, they make a T). Then I'm annoyed and frustrated to realize that the manual has no directions, much less pictures, showing how to use the jack! Yep, there's a picture of the van, showing where to connect the jack. But how to put the @#$^& thing together? Not a clue.

Finally, after fiddling with the thing, I figure it out. The manual suggests loosening the lugnuts on the tire before using the jack to raise the car. Ok. Left is loose.... right is tight......I can do this....just push on this.....harder....not moving a thing. Crap. Try again. I pushed out a 9 lb 2 oz baby, I ought to be able to push this teeny little bolt. Nope. Can't even make it move. Maybe if I raise the car just a little? Nope, doesn't help. It's getting dark now. Misting rain. Maybe 3 miles to home? Can I walk that on the side of the road without getting hit by a car? Of course I'm wearing gray and purple, which SO stand out in dim, rainy conditions...

Ok, now it's actually dark, and I'm feeling little tendrils of fear curling round the back of my mind. What am I going to do? I mention to God that it would be really nice if some help would come. Lo and behold, a car slows and turns into the drive, followed by a second car. Bless these folks! Turns out Pam saw me as she passed and got her husband Jeffrey to come back with her to help me.

I discover Pam used to work with Gary at Watauga Medical Center, and now she works for a doctor who cares for Matt. Small world! Jeffrey, bless his heart, struggles to get the lugnuts off (and I am guiltily glad - I feel less like a helpless female seeing him having trouble too). Then the tire won't come off either. He attaches a chain from the tire to his car and tries to pull the tire off, with no success. He finally resorts to banging on the tire with a metal wrench, even lying out on the ground to reach behind the tire for a few good whacks, and finally the tire comes loose. From there he's got my spare on in a juffy, and after thanking them from the bottom of my heart, I drive carefully home.

Some months ago I read a thought-provoking article that suggested people tend to have either of two kinds of mindsets, just-in-time and just-in-case. The latter tend to hang on to everything, just-in-case they might be needed. Coming from a family with lots of Depression memories and plenty of Scots frugality, I tended towards the just-in-case crowd.

But the problem with just-in-case thinking is you wind up hanging on to more and more "stuff" (from material goods to mental attitudes), and spend so much time and effort focusing on what might happen you loose track of what is really going on. And you tend to gum up the works, so to speak, hanging on to things other people could really use, or clinging to ideas whose time is past.

Living life from a just-in-time perspective means trusting in grace to provide what we need just when we need it. It allows us to open our hearts and hands and let go of things and attitudes that we don't need. It's scary for those of us inclined to be just-in-case folks to let go of the fantasy of being able to handle everything all ourselves. But tonight, when two people stopped to help me out, I felt a gentle nudge from the Gracious One.

Tomorrow we'll get the car fixed, and somehow get the kids to school and myself to work. We'll figure something out. But tonight I am deeply thankful for the kindness of strangers, and the care-full-ness of God. And perhaps I am a little closer to being able to trust that kindness and care will always come just in time.

Grace and peace and blessed be!

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