It was on my de-cluttering challenge list: CLEAN OUT THE ‘BURB. I knew, from a recent, cursory glance at the condition of the back seats (there are a lot of them, you know, in a Suburban) that there was an unusual amount of clutter in our vehicle, even for us. Remember the wrestling tournament in Kansas that we went to, lo, these many (many) weeks ago? Well. In the very back seat, there were still books–clothing–blankets–and snacks–from that trip, still wedged there. That trip was nearly a month ago. Oiy.
Of course since the adults in the family ride in the front seats, usually, we don’t see that embarrassing collection of quietly molding snack foods, petrified french fries, wadded up tissues, lost library books, misplaced toys, and whatnot (gobs of whatnot) that is the habitat of the very back seat of the ‘Burb. But. All that was going to change. With my Lenten De-cluttering Challenge, it was a simple thing to add a clean-up of the ‘Burb onto my list. Which I had, so I knew it would get done.
It would be akin to childbirth: painful and gory, but glorious and totally worth it afterward.
After I de-cluttered our ‘Burb (and I knew it wouldn’t take any more than my allowed 20 minutes to do so, especially if I could get little Mack to scrabble about underneath the seats for the Lego pieces, pencils, crayons, coins, rubber bands, and marbles that resided there) I knew that it wouldn’t be so hard to keep it neat.
And then, last night on the way home from a movie, we hit a deer. Or rather, the deer hit us. To be precise, several deer hit us. There were three or four of them that rose up out of the ditch and dashed across the road in front of us. I suspect that we hit more than one, though only one was left dead in the ditch, next to the pieces of our grill and our bumper, our Chevy insignia from the front end, and our front headlight.
We were all belted in, so we were able to walk away, a bit shaken, but with nary a scratch. Well, I had to scramble out across the driver’s seat, with nary a scratch, because my (passenger) door wouldn’t open, due to the fact that hood had been pushed back into the top of the door and had dented the door pretty badly.
Yup. Deer can do real damage to a vehicle, even one as heavy and stoutly-built as our poor 2004 Suburban. I could make a human parallel here, about the heavy and stoutly-built part that is, but I’ll refrain. Under the circumstances.
Takeaways from this experience:
- Always, always, always buckle your seat belt. Before you start the wheels rolling. Unfortunately, I can imagine quite clearly what would have happened (I spent much of that night imagining it, over and over again) if we hadn’t have been buckled in. I would have gone through the windshield and collided with that wretched deer in mid-air probably, and would have ended up next to her in the ditch. Little Mack would have been thrown who-knows-where, bless him. Bryan would have been thrown into the steering wheel, or right out his window. I don’t know. I am in such astonishment when I hear about fatal crashes where the seat belts weren’t being used. Why not? In a heartbeat, a deer can jump out in front of you. Or an oncoming car can swerve into your lane. You don’t always have time to react.
- Life Is Such A Gift. Although I do look forward to meeting Jesus and spending eternity with Him, there are blessings on earth that are easy to take for granted, if you don’t remember this simple fact: Life is a gift. God has given us such riches! Riches that we, perhaps, don’t even appreciate. I blush to think about what I complain about, what trifles occupy my mind some days, when God has given me so much: my beautiful, funny, sweet children. My patient husband. My absolutely astonishing grandchildren. The stars and the moon to gaze at, at night. Birdsong in the mornings. A beautiful world to live in. It’s perilously easy to complain about the disappointments of life, and we complain aplenty: about the weather. The wind. The rain. The drought. The condition of the roads. Pretty much everything. But there is simply so much good that God has given us here on earth.
[Tweet “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.–James 1:17
3. You never know when it’ll be the last time. This has been a theme that has been in my heart a lot lately, especially as I sift through all the clutter and detritus of the last few years of our lives. When I found those plastic pants in the kitchen closet–from little Mack’s baby days–I wondered about the last day that he wore them, and if I realized that it was going to be the last day. Probably not. The same thing with a baby bow from Amalia’s hair that I found in the junk drawer. Or the lost pacifier I found in a file drawer. Or: a ride in a faithful old car. There’s not time for you to note the date, or to appreciate the fact that you won’t be in this spot in your life again.
Ever. Ever, ever, ever.
4. Don’t put off getting right with God. Our elderly neighbor Orvella in Story City, Iowa, used to remind me soberly that “you’re only a breath away from eternity” and it’s true, although we tend to stay so busy and distracted that we forget. Sometimes we may forget for days or months or years at a time, that life on earth is such a brief thing. Then something happens to remind us.
[Tweet “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14]
I was surprised at how emotional I was, for days, about the fact that our Suburban was totaled. After all, it’s an old vehicle, and was pushing 200,000 miles. It didn’t owe us a thing. It has some quirks–an electrical problem which is too expensive to fix keeps the ticking blinker sound going nearly all the time.
“Tick tick tick tick tick tick . . . ” Yup, it can be annoying, though Amalia and I have coped with it best just by making up the “Endless Ticking Blinker Sound Song” and singing it loudly, when it starts to get to us. The ‘Burb also drips oil and leaves big spots if we park it anyplace too long. It has a few dimples and dents, and is beginning to rust in spots.
But it is the car that we had just a few years ago, when we still had six children under our roof–for that brief, exasperating summer when little Mack was a newborn and our oldest, Matthew, was home from college and struggling with missing his True Love, who had up and gone on a trip to Japan for the summer. And who didn’t write. Because his letter to her had gotten lost in the mail. (True story.) We did a bit of travelling in the ‘Burb, all eight of us, that summer, for the one and only time. Ever since then, we’ve watched Matthew, and then Andrew, and then Bethany, spread their wings and leave home. Timothy is very close behind them. It all goes so fast. That’s not a cliché. It’s a fact.
This car represents our family all together under one roof. It is our Young Parent Days car. Our “we’re a family of 8 and so happy of that fact” car. I know that big families are a bit of an oddity these days, and often not welcome or looked upon favorably, but I was (and am!) always immeasurably proud of our big, noisy, funny, beautiful family. This Suburban was the vehicle of our young parent days, when we had a new baby, and all six of our children were still living under our roof.
But. Not any longer. We towed the ‘Burb to the mechanic’s shop the next day, and we looked closely at all the damage. It could have been worse. Lots of people hit deer in our area, and some times all you get is a cracked bumper (that’s what happened the last time we hit a deer) and other times, much worse. We were blessed to escape “much worse.”
The next day was Sunday, and thankfully the car dealership where we towed the ‘Burb was closed, so only a few passersby witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of our cleaning months of detritus out of our beloved vehicle, that afternoon. I found white candles from last year’s Christmas Eve service, Gentle Reader. Melted crayons. Enough Legos to build a life-size model of the ‘Burb, no kidding. It was a brutal and painful reminder of how messy my life is.
As rattled as I was by this experience, it wasn’t lost on me that this was the best clean-up of the ‘Burb that we had ever done. 🙁
But–things are getting better on that count. Every day that I do my 20-minute De-cluttering challenge for Lent, I chip away at the clutter and the mess and the STUFF that has been dragging us down for years. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
So that’s the story of the night the deer hit the ‘Burb. So long, faithful vehicle.
On another note, and speaking of seizing the day (we were addressing that, right?) please remember to enter my current giveaway: for a copy of the fabulous new edition of The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It’s so easy to enter, and you can enter every day, if you’d like! This copy is signed by the authors and would be a wonderful gift for yourself or possibly a beloved baker in your life. Mother’s Day is coming up soon, you know! Enter today!
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