This weekend, my brother's family was supposed to come and visit. We were all excited. My kids couldn't wait to see his kids and I was going to get to remeet (I know, not a word) two of my nephews and meet for the first time one of my nieces. Then Wednesday or Thursday their van broke down. They had just gotten it out of the shop. It supposedly got fixed. Last night I went over to my mom's house. When I got there she was just getting off the phone with my brother. I asked how he was. She said frustrated. I guess they had gotten their van back only to have it break down on his wife Friday morning, leaving her stranded on the side of the highway. As with most young families it seems, money is tight and these unforeseen things really add an unwanted burden to life. It made me think about our car troubles a few years ago.
It was February and we were on our way to church. At that time, church was 45 miles away. It was cold, as it always was in South Dakota that time of year. We got about 10 miles from home and our van died. We couldn't get it started long enough to get home. We sat there in our not so warm church clothes trying to call someone to come get us. We finally got a hold of someone and made it home. We had to get a new engine. Money we DID NOT have. We finally found a good used one and got it all put in. In the meantime we had borrowed a friends Excursion to get around in. After a few weeks and a lot of money, we got our van back. A few weeks later, I had left early (6 am) to go to the store. It was freezing cold outside - still. The store was 30 miles from home. On my way home, about a mile onto the interstate, my van made a horrible knocking noise and then died. I was stranded on the interstate in 45 below windchill. I called Michael and then waited. I was so frustrated! I was freezing, mad, upset, very glad I didn't have my little kids with me, and very emotional. Why, why, why was all I could ask. We were trying to be good. We were trying to live right. Why was all this happening? I waited there for almost an hour. I loaded all the groceries into Michael's work truck (when he got there) and we left the van and headed home. Dillon had been sick and he ended up throwing up in Michael's work truck (can we say new four door dodge?) which only added to the frustrations of the morning. Later that day they hauled the van back to the shop. It needed a new engine - AGAIN! I couldn't believe it. Luckily the place we got the last engine from let us get a different used one, no charge, since it had been less than 30 days. We did, however, have to pay labor which ended up being alot more than we had hoped. Our savings was cleaned out, our checking was cleaned out, we even had to borrow from Michael's dad because we had absolutely nothing to our name. I had almost a feeling of devastation. We had moved back to South Dakota because we felt that was where we were supposed to be. It was going to help us get out of debt and relieve us of that financial burden, yet everything seemed to be against us. I kept asking and wondering why. Trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and why it was so hard. The answers to those questions never came. I still don't know why it all happened. I don't know the answers to alot of our "car troubles" that we've had in life.
Why, after being led to Astoria did we have to leave? Why didn't things work out in Sioux Falls causing us to have to leave again? Why are things still hard here? Why can't I be back in Hendricks with the friends I love so dearly? Why do we have to pay $1500 a month in rent so that financially we still struggle and can't seem to make ends meet? Why did our house fall through so we had to rent? Why does Michael have to work a job that requires him to be gone for so long? Why can't chocolate be an effective weight loss food? Just kidding. Seriously though, I have these questions and I have them a lot. The answers? I don't have any. I don't know why all these things happen. I don't know why money is our life's challenge. I don't know why my friends have to be so far away. I don't know why we have to live in a place where we have to live in town and lose the freedom that we loved so much - along with the horses, cows, haystacks and other country experiences. All I know is that we survive. Some how we make it through. There's help when we need it, strength we didn't know we had. Some decisions have been very hard. Some we wish we never had to make. But we did and we survived. Do my days get long and lonely? Yes. Do I miss my friends and my husband? Yes. Do I miss the long, hot days at the barn with the 4-H kids? Surprisingly yes. Do I still feel that this is where we are supposed to be doing what we are supposed to be doing? Yes. Does it make it any easier? Not always.
I guess, after all this I have begun to learn that even if I am doing my best to live a good life, I will still have hard times and challenges. I will still have car troubles, but I will survive. When I was first in Ireland as a missionary it was hard. We walked all day everyday trying to find some one to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to. At night I would come home and my feet would hurt so bad. They would be so swollen that my toes couldn't touch the floor. In the mornings when I would first stand on them I would have horrible sharp pains shoot through my feet and up my legs. I remember praying. I would remind Heavenly Father that I was here doing His work and that I would appreciate it if He would take away this pain. Then one morning, after repeating this prayer and reminding Him yet again of my pain, He finally answered me. He showed me that while I still had the pain, He had given me the strength to get through each day. Even though it hurt, each morning I had the strength to get out of bed. I was able to go out for 12 hours a day and walk on those sore feet. He had not taken away my pain, but given me strength to endure it. Eventually my feet toughened and the pain went away. I have been able to draw on that many times since then. All of these other challenges that I have faced and that I face now will turn out okay. It doesn't ease the pain of the experiences, but it gives me the knowledge that I will survive and have the strength I need. We are always going to have car troubles. There are going to be times when we feel stranded and alone on the side of the interstate in 45 below weather. There will be times when each step causes pain that we don't think we deserve to feel. We may never know the reasons why. But we will always survive. We will always come out stronger.