The Search for Reliable Cars

Many different situations in life have been a challenge to me as a single woman. The most consistent challenge has been cars. Buying them. Maintaining them. Insuring them. Everything about cars except for driving them. I do that OK.

Dad always helped find the car to buy, changed the oil, checked the tires. These are things I find hard to do. Sometimes, I even forget that I need to put gas in the car! Thankfully, I do notice that little warning gas pump light when it comes on.

When I moved back to Illinois I needed a car. Or, perhaps my dad just wanted his car back. So I bought an old blue one off my brother. If you ask me what kind of car it was, I’m going to keep saying it was a blue one. Cars are not my thing. I paid $1,000 for it with a year loan at the bank which helped build up my credit. The month I paid it off, someone hit me and insurance gave me about $850.00 to repair it. It was still driveable, so the money was used  for some other need. (I don’t remember the details.) Later, I sold the car for $300 at our garage sale. It was good for parts only by that time.

The next car was unique. It ran on propane. It was from Canada. It was beige and I think it was a Ford. I didn’t go far from home because Grimm’s in Morton was the only place I knew to get propane. It did get good gas mileage. The best story about that car was when I went to Ace Hardware, which was listed in the book as a propane provider, and told the lady I needed propane. She told me to bring the tank inside and they would fill it. I replied, “It’s in my car.” To which she replied, “Well, take it out of your car and bring it in.” With a quizzical look on my face, I said, “I don’t know how to remove a gas tank from my car.” She was getting angry, when it dawned on me. “My car gas tank takes propane.” Her reply, “Oh, well, we don’t do that.” and she walked away.

I traded that car for a gray Chevrolet station wagon which I ran for 120,000 miles until it started to shake. I traded it in on a red Ford van which drove us to volleyball games and basketball games all over Central Illinois. The engine light came on when idling and it started the shakes at 130,000 miles. This time, Dad wasn’t around to help me with my purchase so I had to go it alone. Mom was ill and in the hospital, so I needed to trade it in for a car that she could ride in easily. Praying for God to help me find a car, I traded it in on a red Ford Contour.

When the Contour started showing signs of age, I asked my Sunday School class to pray for me to find a different car. A few weeks later a missionary approached me to see if I’d like to buy her white Ford Taurus when she went back to the field. I did, and that car was great. Until July. I started sinking money into it. Ignition. Battery cables. Two new tires.

Enough.

With additional repairs needed – ball joints, alignment – I needed to find a different car fast. Last Saturday we made a trip to Peoria to begin the search at the Honda dealership. We looked at a few – one looked like it might work – but ended the day driving my old car home. I spent the weekend thinking and searching on line.

If I had all the money in the world, it wouldn’t be so hard. But I need a car that 1. I can afford. 2. I can trust. 3. is affordable to run. Please note that color and features are not included in that list. I’d like them to be, but that’s not a top priority on my budget.

I woke up at 5:00 Monday morning and could not get back to sleep. I was worrying. Thinking. Praying. “Lord, if only you could send the right car to the dealership today. One that has the things that the other one doesn’t have. New tires. A warranty.”

Why was I amazed when I checked my email that morning and found a message from Larry that he had overlooked a car on Saturday and he thought I should come in and drive it? He thought it might be perfect for my situation. It was almost the same price as the car I’d been considering, but it had four new tires and a 1 year bumper-to-bumper warranty.

When the dust settled, God provided a car in immaculate condition with four new tires ,

a 50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty,

heated seats (the one luxury I really wanted),

a moon roof,

a great sound system (which is even better because the car is so quiet!),

a tire pressure dummy light (as my dad called them and which I NEED!)

an oil change reminder light (again, I NEED this),

an air conditioner that works really well (compared to the old car),

and lots of safety features and car stuff I don’t understand.

And it’s a V6.

God has faithfully provided a car whenever I needed one. He helped my old car make it over to the dealership one last time. (Whew! I was relieved as they drove it away.) He has not only provided for my needs, but has been abundantly giving to me the little added pleasures – which includes a car that is smarter than me.

I’m rejoicing in His goodness. I’m repentant because there were times through the whole process where I failed to trust Him. I am thankful that God loves me.

James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

What shall I name it?

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Guest Blog – Karrie’s Thoughts on Summer Vacations

Growing up, I loved school. I loved learning. I loved my teachers. I loved the smell of crayons and freshly sharpened pencils. I loved the process of learning. I loved reading and doing homework. I loved seeing my friends every day. I just loved it. That’s why I became a teacher – because I love to learn. And that love of learning grew into a love of teaching. I absolutely love my job. And I would do it, even if they took summer vacation away.

But when I was a kid, I hated summer vacation.

When I look back, I have always loved school. Even all the way back to my preschool days at The Growing Tree with Mrs. Renchler. I thought she was incredible. I don’t know why. I really have only one memory of her…and it was her shoes. But nonetheless, I have loved learning since I can remember…even if I didn’t realize it.

But that makes me wonder…did my love of school start because school made me feel safe?

After we moved to Illinois from Colorado, I know that two things happened: Kate was born and I went to preschool. I learned much later in life that I started going to preschool at the age of 4 so that I had a good reason to stay right here in Illinois. My dad couldn’t just take me at his leisure, “I had school”. This made school a safe place.

The start of school always meant I had months before I had to leave my safe, secure family life to visit my dad where “family life” was tumultuous and unnerving. School was safe, calm and predictable. How could I not love it? It gave me something I desperately     needed . . . security.

But as most kids were bursting with excitement as the end of the school year approached, I was filled with dread. I would be leaving my mom, my sister, my grandparents, my friends, my security . . . and going to visit my dad.

When kids started counting down the days, I was doing a different countdown. One that filled me with great sadness as the end of the school year grew closer and closer. I became grumpy and cranky. And even as I type this I’m overcome with the feelings little Karrie felt.

I remember one time playing outside with Katie and the neighbor kids, Rachel and Josh. I don’t remember what happened, but I do remember I yelled at someone. This made Robin, their mom, intervene. She asked what was going on, because I wasn’t acting like myself. I burst into tears . . . great big wrenching sobs “I . . . don’t . . . want . . . to go . . . to my . . . Dad’s . . . ” right there on the big wheel.

And this happened every summer.

There was one summer that I lived with this feeling for quite awhile. I was 11. In the spring, I had asked him if I had to go out for the whole six weeks. I hated missing out on going to the pool with my friends, birthday parties, slumber parties and staying up late running barefoot through the yard. I really wanted to be home in time to go to my BF’s birthday party in July. I missed it every year. He said, “Let me think about it”. I didn’t tell him, but I was tired of feeling like I missed out on my Illinois life, when for the most part, I was just bored at his house. He still had to go to work. I didn’t have friends. There was no library (or so I thought). I stayed home, by myself and watched TV. Even the things I liked to do, like go fishing, we only did a couple of times. I understand how that request must have stung my dad’s heart.

But I never heard from him.

I lived in fear for a number of weeks that he would just show up one day and tell me to pack my bags. Every time the telephone rang I would hold my breath. I let someone else answer it and waited until I heard the light pleasant “Oh Hi…” I remember telling my cousin Meggan about my fear and she got scared for me too. She would stay on the lookout for anything suspicious.

A couple of weeks into this, mom finally asked what was wrong. And just like the big wheel, I remember crying “I . . . don’t . . . want . . . to go . . . to my . . . Dad’s” And then she hugged me. She told me it was all going to be okay. That God had a plan. We prayed. And then she said that I should enjoy my summer at home.

And that I did. I went to the pool with my friends. I stayed up late and ran barefoot catching lightning bugs.

And so, for me right now it is summer vacation. I often get comments/jokes/snide remarks about my time off. But when asked, “What are you doing for summer break?” I often want to say, “Making up for lost time”. Because I no longer dread this time of summer reprieve.

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On Being Honest With Your Children

All parents must choose at some point between doing what is best for their children and doing what is easiest or reactionary. This is often more difficult for single parents, as we want to react to the circumstances and do more, give more, and be more for our children to make up for what is missing.

It is so easy to feel guilt because our failure has taken away the happy home in which our children should be raised. And this guilt can often cause us to make unwise or unhealthy choices. Children often use this guilt (knowingly or unknowingly) to manipulate their parents.

I knew the time would come when Karrie would test the waters of having separate parents. That time came in the middle of K-Bee Toys. Karrie (about age 4) wanted a new doll and I had said “no.” She looked at me and said, “I’ll just ask Daddy when I go to visit him.”

My heart broke and my first inclination was to say, “NO! I’ll buy it for you!” But wisdom held me back. (That and very little cash.) I knelt down beside her in the middle of the aisle and said, “Do you think that Daddy loves you more than Mommy because he will buy you this doll?” My sensitive little girl replied “no” as she flung her arms around my neck. We sat together in the aisle of that store, surrounded by toys, and talked about how much I loved her, about how getting things is not a sign of love, and how sometimes love has to say “no.”

It is important to be honest with your children. It is important to not let overwhelming feelings of failure or guilt keep you from doing what needs to be done – facing the issue at hand, correcting your child’s thinking, and letting her know how much you love her!

Karrie and I talked about money and how mommy didn’t have enough to buy whatever we wanted. We had to be careful with our purchases. We talked about looking for things on sale.

And so, as we walked through the store that day, whenever Karrie saw something she might like, she asked if it was on sale. If it was not, we walked on. If it was, she considered it. I allowed her one purchase that day and although I don’t remember what she decided to buy, I do remember a dad watching us and finally asking me how I got her to only look at things on sale!

Too often we don’t explain things to our kids and that’s why, when we need money, they are quick to say, “Just go to the bank!” (If only that were possible!) When the girls were a little older and they asked for something that was too expensive, I told them how many hours it would take me to work to pay for the item. It was a good exercise for them to decide which they wanted more – a new blouse or mommy home from work.

I didn’t always take the time to explain things to my girls, and more than once, I’m afraid I did use the ‘Because I’m the mommy, that’s why’ answer. But there were many times that we discussed things as a family, we worked through the feelings of guilt and anger, and we learned to do what was best for all of us.

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Retirement Pity Party

Yesterday would have been our 36th wedding anniversary.

So, it is probably no surprise that I had a bit of a pity party for myself this morning as I drove to work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I’m very thankful for it. But after 30 years of working 40-50 hour weeks at one job, plus another 5-10 hours of piano lessons, plus additional part-time jobs, I’m tired.

And with no end in sight (a.k.a. retirement), I’m weary.

It’s Rich’s fault that I have to keep working – that I can’t be a housewife, staying at home to keep my dishes washed, my closets cleaned, and my gardens weeded.

It’s his fault that I wake up to an alarm clock; that I can’t sit on my deck and drink a cup of tea, listening to the birds, rather than thinking “Get going. You have to go to work.”

I blame him.

And so I have to forgive him.

I was feeling so very sorry for myself on the drive into work this morning, praying for God’s strength to make it through another work day when I just wanted to stay home and tackle my home to do list – asking Him to encourage me and take away the sadness, when the song How Can I Keep from Singing began to play:

There is an endless song, echoes in my soul; I hear the music ring

And though the storms may come, I am holding on; To the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love.
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing.

I will lift my eyes in the darkest night, for I know my Savior lives

And I will walk with You knowing You’ll see me through and sing the songs You give

I can sing in the troubled times; Sing when I win; I can sing when I lose my step and fall down again
I can sing ’cause You pick me up; Sing ’cause You’re there; I can sing ’cause You hear me, Lord when I call to You in prayer.
I can sing with my last breath; sing for I know that I’ll sing with the angels and the saints around the throne.

I needed to hear those words. I am years from retirement, but I can sing while I work.

I can sing.

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love.
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing.

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Grampa and Katie

Katie never knew her dad. He had held her when she was three months old but he rarely interacted with her after that. She only knew him as the man who came and took her sister away for weeks at a time.

So, it shouldn’t have surprised me one Sunday afternoon when she was about two or three, that she asked me, “Mommy, what’s a Daddy?” During Sunday School that morning, Mrs. Bowman had taught the lesson about obeying Mommy and Daddy. Katie held her question until she got home.

My mind raced as I considered how to explain this to Katie. Praying for wisdom I said, “Well, honey, a daddy is someone who loves a mommy and his children. He takes care of them, buying groceries, providing a home, going to work. He plays with them and just loves them.” I looked at her, hoping this would explain it well enough. She looked at me with total insight and said, “Oh! A grampa!”

I smiled. “Yes, a grampa.”

Grampa, Karrie, and Katie home from the hospital.

Katie adored her Grampa. And he adored her. Only a grampa would let a little girl stand on a bench behind his chair, combing his hair, styling it, using a (fake) blow dryer – all this while watching his beloved Cubs on television.

Only a grampa would let a little girl put Pound Kitties on his shoulders.

Dad didn’t like cats, but he loved Katie.

Or hang jingle bells on his ears – and never say a word.

Only her Grampa could fick (fix) anything. One day Dad came into the house holding a tiny piece of broken glass in his hand. “You know what Katie said, when she brought this to me? Fick it, Grampa. That little girl thinks I can fix anything.” He felt the weight of her trust.

Katie spent hours standing on her little bench, watching Grampa work in his workshop, asking questions, and happy to be with her Grampa.

There were times when he couldn’t fix things. Like when Karrie had to go to visit her Dad for six weeks in the summer. He spent many hours in his workshop, knowing that in his weakness, his inability to shelter Karrie, he could turn to the One Who would take care of her. My daughters have had many prayer warriors in their lives. Grampa was one of them.

In her succinct way, Kate provided me with her favorite memories of Grampa –

Fishing.

Did she like fishing? Or just spending time with Grampa?

Running to his arms when dad came.

Knowing he watched out for us when tornadoes came.

Him bringing home Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Listening to his heartbeat when I would sit on his lap.

Katie and Grampa

Him loving Gramma.

Riding in the back of his truck.

Buddies

When he got sick (Alzheimer’s) we would dance in the living room.

You know all the dad stuff he did. What’s a daddy? Oh a Grampa!

Man I miss them.”

When Dad realized that he would be a very present part of my girls lives, he liked to say, “Either the Lord thinks I did such a good job raising my own kids, He said, ‘Here, do it again.’ or I did such a bad job raising my own kids, He said, ‘Here, try again.’

Safe and sound in Grampa’s arms.

I think he did a great job – both times.


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The Porch Swing

Thirty years ago Dad sunk some telephone poles into the ground in our front yard, added a crossbeam, and hung a porch swing. In the perfect spot under a large ash tree the porch swing has hosted friends and family conversations, solitary readers, and held us as we anxiously awaited the arrival of rides and visitors. Almost always a light breeze keeps us comfortable.

The Porch Swing Today

The first summer Karrie and I came back to Illinois, while waiting for Katie to arrive, we spent many evenings on the porch swing. Dad also hung a tire swing from a high branch on the ash tree to add a third seat. The tire was hung parallel to the ground with three chains anchoring it to the tree.

Dad worked the afternoon shift in the train yard and arrived home about 9:00 every night. If there was extra work, it could be a little later, but we almost always ended up sitting together on the swings, discussing our day, enjoying the peace of being home.

Looking back, I realize that one of the first signs of my husband’s unfaithfulness was when he didn’t come home at his regular time. He would arrive home later and later until it was impossible to ignore – until he no longer came home. This wasn’t only apparent to me. Karrie understood, too. But as her daddy stepped out of her life, her grandpa stepped in. They called each other “Love Bug” and a special bond formed with lots of hugs, kisses, giggles, and smiles.

One evening as we waited for Grampa to come home from work, Karrie was looking sleepy. She wanted to sleep in her Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag, so I prepared a cushion on the floor by my bed, unrolled the sleeping bag, added her pillow, and expected her to crawl in. But, she went back out to the living room with Gramma. Dad must have had extra work, because it was quite late by the time he arrived home. As the car drove up, Karrie ran to the screen door. She leaned out and said, “Hi Love Bug!” A cheerful, but much deeper, “Hi Love Bug!” echoed back. We went out to the swings to chat.

After a few minutes I realized that Karrie had not followed us out the door. Going to look for her, I found her sound asleep in her sleeping bag.

And I realized how much she needed to see that Grampa had come home. He was faithful. He wasn’t going to leave her. That gave her the security to lie down in peace and sleep soundly. Healing had begun and the example of her Grampa would become her window to see her Heavenly Father who watched over us through it all.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, 
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

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Bringing Karrie Home

Dad called from the airport and said he was coming home without my girl. He had called everyone he could and no one knew (or was telling) where Rich and Karrie were living. Dad had to get back to work. I cried.

Karrie had not wanted to leave that summer. She knew Katie would start walking and she’d miss her first steps. She begged me to stay home but because of the law I had to go against what we both wanted and help her prepare to go visit her dad. Part of my encouragement was that it was only two weeks and that Katie wouldn’t be walking by then. That two weeks would go quickly. I was not prepared for this situation. Neither was Karrie.

My mother-in-law, Ruth, called me and apologized. She didn’t know where they were. She was very upset about the situation. After Rich and Karrie visited one day, she called to tell me that Karrie looked healthy and happy. She was able to talk to her and reassure her that Mommy loved her and missed her.

For eight long weeks we tried everything to find Karrie from 1,000 miles away. I found myself wondering if I’d ever see Karrie again. I painted her furniture and put strawberry decals on her bed. I bought toys and clothes, mostly from garage sales. That was my way of saying that she would come home. I prayed constantly. Friends and family prayed and encouraged me.

One day as I walked to my office in the church basement I felt the prayers of people surrounding me. Hebrews 12:1-3 filled my mind, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

I muddled through the weeks that summer. My boss had to check my work carefully because I made silly little mistakes. My mind was not in the game. It was 1,000 miles west.

Even Katie missed her sister. Katie had a way of bouncing on the floor when she was happy. With her feet pressed together, she could lift her bottom off the floor, laugh, and bounce. One day she was extra fussy about life. Dad took Karrie’s picture off the table and set the frame in front of Katie. She leaned forward, kissed the picture and started bouncing. Whenever she became fussy, we gave her the picture. We even delayed her first birthday until Karrie would be home.

In August Dad decided we should go out to Colorado and try to find Rich ourselves. We knew he was still working at the railroad and Dad decided we would simply follow him home from work at night, get his address, and give it to our lawyer. I was ready. People started praying.

We stopped at my brother’s home on the way out and traded cars. Dad had thought through the details. This would be a car unfamiliar to Rich. We stayed at a hotel in Boulder which was not our regular hotel. The next day we drove around praying and searching. We ate at a Burger King for lunch. We prayed for Karrie. Mom said she felt that Karrie was close by. Mom, the optimist, knew this would work.

At 10:00 that night Dad and I drove to the railroad yards, parked outside the fence where we could see Rich’s truck, and waited. About 11:30 I told Dad I had to go to the bathroom. Nothing in sight, so I waited.

I still can see Rich coming out to his car that night, unaware of what was about to happen. People were praying. We asked that God would hide us from view. Dad followed behind as Rich started the drive home. We hit the interstate which was almost devoid of cars. Dad held back. Rich took his exit and we knew we’d have to pull up behind him. Out of nowhere a car flew past us, took the exit, and was the buffer between our cars. That angel really knew how to drive.

We followed Rich to an apartment complex across the street from the Burger King where we had eaten our lunch. Karrie had been close by. I wrote down the address. But, Rich had seen the car and he came flying back down the stairs and got in his truck. Dad pulled out and Rich followed. I had been instructed to scrunch down on the floor of the car. Dad didn’t want Rich to know I was there. From the floor, I directed Dad around town and we took off up the mountains. Dad did not want a confrontation, nor did he want Rich to know where we were staying, so he just drove. With a full tank of gas, we were ready. Rich followed. He was angry. He passed us, then pulled off, then made obscene gestures, then followed us again. After about 30 minutes he finally pulled away and left us alone. At the top of Boulder Canyon I was finally able to get out of the car and attend to a very important matter. I desperately needed a bathroom! This was about 2:30 in the morning. Dad slowly drove us back to the hotel in Boulder. (We noticed Rich’s truck at the police station in Boulder as we drove by. I was worried. Dad said we’d just been out for a drive and we did nothing wrong.)

First thing the next morning I called my lawyer to give him Rich’s address. He’d been trying to reach us all morning. (This was before cell phones.) Rich’s lawyer had called that morning saying Rich wanted to give Karrie back. That afternoon we went to his lawyer’s office and I had my little girl back in my arms.

The other lawyer’s secretary (Lois) told my lawyer’s secretary (Beth), “They didn’t need to harass Mr. Goebel by following him home from work.” to which Beth replied, “They wouldn’t have needed to follow him home if she had known where he lived, if her daughter was ok, and if he’d been communicating with her.” Lois was shocked! Apparently, Rich had told the lawyer that I was fine with him keeping Karrie for a longer period of time and that I’d been in contact with her each week. His lawyer apologized to me. I think it also later affected the way he interacted with me.

No action could be taken against Rich because our visitation agreement had not been specific. My lawyer quickly requested a date for us to firm up the documentation so that nothing like this could ever happen again.

We immediately left the lawyer’s office, with Karrie in the back seat next to Katie, both of them almost as happy as the adults. I still remember Karrie telling Grampa to turn on the “heat” so she could “cool herself up.”At another point in the ride, I was holding Katie on my lap, when Karrie asked “Mommy, can I have a leg?” meaning that she wanted to sit on my lap, too. At the hotel that night, Karrie saw her baby sister take her first steps (in the hotel.) Katie had been trying to walk for weeks, but we kept setting her down and not encouraging her. Dad finally said to us, “Let that baby walk.” So she’d been walking for a few weeks, but we celebrated with Karrie.

So my adventure as a spy came to a wonderful end. My family was together again. We thanked God. We sang. We laughed. We drove home with hearts full of praise.

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