Just two more installments of “A Look Back.” I’ve already lost interest, which is probably why I didn’t post last week or the week before. Perhaps you have, as well, and are considering skipping Part 6. But I promise you this will be a good one, if not for the wild story I’ll share.
First, thank you to all of our friends, both new and old, who came out to help with our move. In Toledo, Craig B. probably felt he owed me a back scratch, considering I helped him move a couple times, though I can’t say I ever provided much as far as manpower is concerned. He brought with him his 19-year-old son Michael and helped me back in the truck, something with which I’d grow terribly familiar. R.W. and Laurie awoke their three teenage sons and brought them to help along with Panera bagels. Laurie held Micah while we packed up the truck. John Burroughs helped a lot, including disassembling at least one crib, which to put back together again I understand was like reconstructing Humpty Dumpty. Mark and Margie B., longtime friends of ours—I played for two of their children’s weddings—supplied muscle and care for Micah, respectively. Mark had also made a run across the street to Tim Horton’s for a round of coffee on a bitterly cold morning.
Among our new friends who met us not only to unload the truck but help unpack a little on Sunday afternoon in Lewisburg after a long, long night—more on that later—were Dean and Judy W., Tim P. and his two kids, Craig S. (one of my sound guys) and his daughter Cassie, Richard M. (a vocalist on my team), Kyle and Laura D. (supposedly a vocalist on my team, missing in action), Lou D., Matthew L., Taylor E. and her friend Molly, Brian and Jenni R., Sue C., Mike B., David R., and of course, Walt and Tina L. and their footballer son Ryan, who I’m sure could easily bench-press an armoire.
A note on the Lockers. Walt and Tina opened up their home to our family back in August when they learned we’d need a sort of home base in Eaton while commuting. I’m not sure if they expected it to last four months, but we were never made to feel we’d worn out our welcome. Interestingly, our first night there was the day they returned from dropping off Ryan at college. If the sight of a three-month-old Micah didn’t remind forlorn Tina of Ryan 18 years ago, then surely the sound of his cries reverberating throughout the house in the middle of the night did. Though we felt uneasy with an infant’s keeping our hosts awake, they never gave us such an impression, and, in fact, discouraged any notion of irritation. The Saturday we moved we stayed the night, what little of it there was, and the following day it was a sad occasion when we returned to them their house key. We’d shared many meals together and watched the baseball postseason and many football games. No matter how late I’d arrive on a Saturday, they always left the light on for me and made sure I had towels. And I always knew when Ryan and Megan were home from college, because their parents would still be awake well after 10 pm.
One more item both for your incredulity and to request your prayers. For over a year now, we were certain we’d need to sell our house in Toledo. The housing market and our inability to prepare to sell it, primarily due to not having the money last year to make repairs and spruce it up, caused us great concern. But we’d long ago turned it over to God. A few months ago, I was in Eaton and Laura F. came to visit Cindy in Toledo at our home, her former home. See, 5½ years ago, Laura sold us the house. She’d been sensing in the summer of 2004 that she needed to head out to the Pacific Northwest. She had family back there, and her mother was sick. A mutual friend informed Laura we had just started looking for a house, not too seriously really. But it seemed God was leading us to one another. Well, we moved in at the end of August, in time for Lindsay to start kindergarten at Monac. She stayed for at least a week before leaving for Oregon, a very unique situation. Much like the current one. During her visit back in October, Laura told Cindy she was thinking of moving back and asked what was new with us. She responded, “Well …” So, the week of Christmas Laura drove back and helped us get packed for our move. She was a tremendous help, both with organization and serving as a nanny to Micah to whom she referred to herself as YaYa. I think he’s missed YaYa since the move. Laura is staying at our house and is searching for a job in the Toledo area. She’ll likely rent the house until she buys the house back—that is, if a family of five hasn’t destroyed it too much for her liking. Please pray for this situation. I’d love to see it work out for many reasons, not the least of which is I’d love to tell another story of something only God could do.
Okay, this post is getting long, but I promised you a wild story. Here it is.
The day we packed up the truck in Toledo was a long one that started for me at 6 am and extended through the following day until 3 am. Our helpers completed the task quickly, arriving at 9 am and finishing before noon. We still had to pack some miscellaneous items, whatever we could fit, and do some cleaning. We’d also wanted to prepare the home a little for Laura. So it was nearly 9 pm when we finally set out for Lewisburg. The U-Haul truck we rented was a 26-foot behemoth, behind which I towed my minivan. Because our street wasn’t a through-street, I decided to park it behind Applebee’s, about 50-75 yards from our house. We departed from there, Cindy in the Sienna with the kids and whatever else we could fit safely. I decided to exit onto Monroe Street, but the Applebee’s parking lot was crowded; it was a Saturday night. I realized I wouldn’t be able to make the turn out of the parking lot without hitting at least one car. I couldn’t very well backup, because the one thing I remembered from the U-Haul guy was, “Don’t get yourself in a situation where you’ll have to go in reverse. You could damage your car.” He might as well have been a prophet.
Applebee’s shares a parking lot with a vacant Rite Aid building, which features a sharp driveway that originally led to their prescription drop off/pick up window. It seemed my only option, so I proceeded cautiously. I became rather proud of myself after navigating the sharp U of the driveway until I realized I wouldn’t be able to clear the small canopy intended to protect drivers picking up their medications. That blasted canopy became my greatest obstacle, an object of much scorn, at which I lashed out at least once.
I refer you to my rudimentary drawing I sketched on the whiteboard in my office. Notice, my original plan would have taken me safely to Monroe Street with ease, if not for the cars of Applebee’s revelers. Instead, I was now stuck on the east side of Rite Aid, cursing more like a sailor than a pastor—thankfully far from earshot of anyone else. (Strangely, at one point a car came pealing around the same drive that now held me captive. The driver stopped upon the sight of the truck and without much difficulty backed out, probably commenting to his passenger the peculiarity of happening upon a huge moving truck.) To my right was a 2-foot drop, which I could have easily leaped if not for the furniture and boxes in the back of the truck, which was the whole purpose of the truck anyway. There was no way I could back out the way I’d come in, especially not with the minivan behind me.
Cindy arrived back at the truck, having wondered why I hadn’t made it to our meeting place, the McDonald’s where we’d grab food for the journey. We devised a plan. We’d unhitch the minivan and the car trailer. The Plymouth Voyager we’d bought used six years ago featured a hitch we’d never had a use for, the same one I’d regularly hit my shin on while loading and unloading the rear. It came in handy that night. I had to back the Voyager out of the drive then back it in the opposite way to retrieve the trailer. This was not an easy task considering the sharp angles, one that led me to believe backing out the truck was a hopeless cause. Perhaps because my wife had arrived, my curses had changed to desperate prayers. I hopped in the truck and Cindy remained in view of my mirrors. I offered up countless petitions for literal guidance over the next 30-45 minutes which consisted of shifting from drive to reverse repeatedly and making quick bursts left and right. Many times I had to jump out of the truck to examine the situation behind me. At long last, I was excited when I steered the truck out of the drive into the clearing of the parking lot, an exhilaration the captain of the Titanic would have felt had he been able to avoid his obstacle.
I drove the truck to the north side of Rite Aid where we’d planned to hook the minivan back on. I needed Cindy for one more chore, making sure the tires of the Voyager were aligned with the ramp of the trailer. Directly behind the truck, she moved from side to side to make sure I was set when she apparently forgot the trailer attached to the truck. She suddenly hit it and immediately flopped to the ground on the other side. She let out what the girls, who were sort of observing, said sounded like the first syllable of an incomplete sneeze. I was horrified thinking I’d lost my bride on the eve of our move. She was okay, though. Certainly angels cushioned her fall to the asphalt, the same angels who likely guided the truck out of the Rite Aid drive. We would further need them to safely escort a sleepy family in two vehicles on the 180-mile drive. Cindy would head to Eaton, and I would stop in Lewisburg after driving 55 mph the entire way.
James 2 says to consider troubles as an opportunity for great joy, because they develop our character. That great trial behind Rite Aid was just what Cindy and I needed. We’d been squabbling all week, little spats primarily about what needed to be packed, what needed to be thrown away, what should be saved, and what should be given away. Our nine years in Toledo shouldn’t have ended in conflict on our last night there. I realized that almost instantly when before we departed we embraced like Super Bowl victors.
We never quite know what God has planned, and the future can seem as foggy as the past couple days here in Eaton. But two things are certain: I don’t want to see a U-Haul truck again for a long time and I’ll opt for the inside of the store to pick up a prescription—and it’ll be a Walgreens.