Well, as I sit here at the start of one of our famed ice storms (we get a couple of these per winter), I thought I'd blog a bit about some things that have occurred in the past month or so. The Advent and Christmas blogging was fun, but I didn't get in much from "life as I know it" here in my little corner of the world.
One incident from late Advent still warms my heart. It happened during our annual Children's Christmas Program. The pastor asked for two things: base it on teaching the children familiar Christmas carols (because they don't learn them in school anymore), and let the pageant part of it be a simple "bathrobe pageant." Well, I honored the first request, but given the state of children's bathrobes these days, went with the church's costumes instead.
For reasons I won't get into here, my school-age children were all angels (the girls) and dual-duty shepherds and "wise guys" (the boys and my one adult male helper). Our adult female helper was the narrator. The pre-school children, of whom I have very few, were Mary, Joseph, and shepherds. Our Mary was our only regularly-attending little girl, and she is a doll caretaker extraordinaire! Only that morning in worship, she'd seen her school-age sisters as angels, and a high school senior girl as Mary. She was so excited that we used the same manger and stable and "baby Jesus" (doll) as the "big kids." Our little Joseph was a trouper. Mary alternated between "loving on" the doll (Texas term, I'm sure you get it) and gazing adoringly at it once she'd laid it back down in the manger, and Joseph would sit for a while, then stand for a while, mostly gazing (rather sternly) at the manger or at the doll in Mary's arms. But the youngest child in the pageant went into meltdown. He was Joseph's younger brother, the cutest shepherd I've ever seen. But as his preschool group stood in front of the school-age group, singing "Star Child," he started to cry. Narrator and "senior wise guy" couldn't get to him easily. Mom and Dad were halfway back in the sanctuary. So I, being only a few steps away directing, scooted on up to him and picked him up. He cried on my shoulder until Mom got to him.
You have to understand: I have no children and was not enough older than my two twin brothers to have ever had much child comforting in my past. This is one of those rare, precious moments when a child has trusted me for comfort. I hate that he was distressed. But I'm so grateful to have been able to offer comfort to him. Really, there's nothing like a barely-three-year-old snuggling against you, trusting that you love him. Oh, yes, little T., I do love you! (still misting up, thinking about this!)
Now, to totally shift gears here, I have had a convergence of good stuff, not so good stuff very recently. The end of December, I gave two weeks' notice on a three-month temp assignment in order to accept a temp-to-hire assignment for much better money and for a dream combination of skills. (It's going very, VERY well, btw.) The night after the first day on the job, I went down to the church (in a neighboring town) and headed home very late. Only a few miles into the trip, the car gave both an electical system warning and hit the danger zone on the temp gauge. I pulled over and let it cool down. Started up again, and the electrical light stayed on. When it started getting too hot again, I pulled over. Finally after a couple more stop-and-go legs on this odyssey, I was at a convenience store. When all cooled down again, I checked all the fluid levels, added water and antifreeze and a quart of oil, and finally made it home. There's really no one near home for me to call, so I limped the car to work; it did OK. But on the way to a shop after work--this was a week ago Friday--it conked out completely. I called my trusty towing guy and after over TWO HOURS (busy night), he picked it up and towed me home. There was NO MONEY to repair the poor ten-year-old thing. This happened at the WORST time!
So the next day, I started researching some options. I was about to be making the best money I've ever made, but after just two days on the new job (and starting out as temp there to boot), I didn't make a good "risk" on buying another car. Plus, all I had to put down was the poor disabled trade-in. I had the TV on for "background noise," and finally realized one of those annoying car sales infomercials was on. It was for a dealer near me, promising no matter what car you want (new Suzukis, or other makes of pre-owned), for as low as $88 per month, they'd put you in a car. If you were one of their first 30 callers, you got an extra $1K over book value on your trade or $500 pocket/extra for down payment. That latter, I was sure counting on. It was either them or a prominent pre-owned "we finance" place within walking distance, so I called to prequalify, then went to the dealership. They didn't know a thing about the "first 30 caller" thing but assured me the dealership would take care of that. I was looking for a 2-3 year old car, perhaps a Honda or Toyota. The ONLY car they'd sell me, after hours there, was an '07 Forenza, for an outrageously high monthly payment. And nobody still had any answers about the "first 30 caller" issue. Never got it. I asked about the "we'll put you in the car you want." The clueless salesman said that was what the bank would qualify me for. Essentially it was take it or leave it. And here we were, now dark out, and me nearly a mile from home without a car.
I'd been praying, hard, ever since the car started acting up, that God would help me work all this out. I could NOT lose the new job due to car woes. I very reluctantly agreed to the only deal I could seem to get. To add insult to injury, the income verification documents I took in Monday at lunch, didn't fly. (I was up-front with the salesman and the finance manager about the job being temporary at this point, and they assured me there was no problem.) Finally, the next day I had to go back in AGAIN, I thought to get the 2007 books (they'd given me 2006) and my spare key. Nope. Without my knowledge or approval, they'd abandoned the financing they'd put together on Saturday and went with a different bank, which ended up being for two percentage points higher interest and which raised my already high payments nearly $20 per month. Again, it was "take it or leave it." They'd taken my title to the old car on Saturday, so I didn't even have the old car to fall back on once I could get it fixed. (It's STILL parked here, by the way, in MY RESERVED SPOT! GRRR...) So once again, if I was going to have a way home, it was a matter of agreeing to their shenanigans.
The sad thing is, it's a nice enough car. It feels comfortable and drives well...much more power than any car I've ever owned before. And in the long run, other than the terribly high price, it will be good to have a car under warranty. This dealership offers free loaner cars if any warranty-covered work is done--that is, if they're telling the truth about THAT. But DANG! This was a horrible experience. I know everybody stresses out to some degree when buying a new car. But I was stuck with more car than I wanted, for a whole lot more money than I have, and all based on a part-time church job and a day job that, for the next two months and three weeks, is a temporary assignment. God and I have been talking, let me assure you! Mostly my saying "You've GOT to help me keep this job!" and God communicating "Trust me" at every yelping turn.
But really, isn't that where we all are, at the heart of it? We're all sustained by God's providence, no matter how cushioned from that awareness our relative wealth may make us (you know, things like having clean water, a roof over our heads, transportation, a living wage...the things that the majority of the world's people either lack entirely or struggle to provide). I *am* a grateful woman, though I am not grateful for the deceptive practices of the car dealership. About that, I intend to communicate my complaints. I've had a week to "sleep on" my experiences, and I even re-watched today's airing of the same infomercial, just to be sure I was accurate in my letter.
So...that's the latest stress in the life of Psalmist. Thanks for reading my stuff. Oh, and happy 2007 to everyone!