Friday, January 11, 2013

Our Van Gift Story

It should be easy to tell this story of our new-to-us van. I've told it numerous times this week, hoping to glorify the Lord. Maybe, on a quiet Friday night one week later, my sleepy mind can pull off the tale in a semi-coherent way. I do want to make the disclaimer that I know this sounds so crazy. In other places in the world they do not need vehicles. God is good even when we aren't given the things we ask for. Our prayers are not always answered YES and are often answered and yet we fail to realize it. I don't think my prayers made God or anybody else do anything. God is in heaven and He does whatever pleases Him. Please accept my humble, rambling story of God's goodness.

We've been talking about needing a new van for the past year or so. As our kids have grown, the inside of our Honda Odyssey seems to have shrunk. While it has seats for seven, adding car seats and growing boy legs and the stuff that goes along with a traveling crew of seven makes for cramped quarters. Not enough reason to get a different vehicle, but enough of a reason to put it on our radar.

Then, the surprise of expecting G! Our children only saw this as JOY and excitement. The Lawyer was immediately concerned about finances and -gasp- the fact that we would HAVE TO get a new vehicle (as we could not fit a family of 8 in our Odyssey). I was Sarah, laughing at the surprise. I was Hannah, saying "for this child I prayed!" I courageously told our family that if the Lord could/would give us another baby, He could/would also give us a way to transport the child, too. I began to pray about a van in the same way that I had prayed for a child: when it came to mind, during the day when I was out driving with the kids, in the morning on my knees as I prayed through lists of things. The kids often joined me. Even The Lawyer would ask the Lord to please provide a van for us.

Now, it's not that we couldn't save up our money and buy a van. We weren't asking for a van out of laziness. The Lawyer has been SO very good at accounting for every penny every month for the past few years. He has been convicted about our finances and we have wholeheartedly thrown ourselves into paying off law school debt. Still, with a family of seven on his meager state salary, it has seemed that most of the time we are barely chipping away at the mountain. We have tucked money aside. And our Odyssey is paid for. Still, to put money aside for a new van would mean redirecting the funds that we believe the Lord has instructed us to put toward debt. In trusting that, then, we didn't see HOW we could get another vehicle.

This summer I traveled to IL again (as I do every summer with the children). The Lawyer (again) needed a way to get to/from work while I was gone with the van. We have been a one vehicle family for the past seven years. He was so weary of borrowing from generous friends. .  . but buying something was too expensive and even renting something would take much more money than we had. And THEN. . . then someone from church offered The Lawyer his truck. It was an old Ford 350, diesel, with dual tires. A big, red farm truck. The Lawyer gratefully accepted and has loved his new truck. Really loved it. And we praised God for providing us a second vehicle. When I returned from IL I was especially thankful not to have to load up the kids several mornings and afternoons each week to drive to/from the bus stop. What a great gift!

And I joked that I had been praying for a VAN but God gave us a TRUCK and I wondered what He was doing and if receiving the truck disqualified us somehow from receiving the big van we were praying for. But we kept praying.

And I mean a BIG van. Vans go from 8 passenger (the 8th seat is a teeny little jump seat kind of thing in the middle row) to 12 and then 15. We thought we needed a 12 passenger van. I looked longingly at Sprinter vans at the Mercedes dealership when I occasionally passed it. We even test drove one once for fun. We talked about finding a used 12 passenger van as cheap as possible. We watched Craigslist.

In November, G was born. Joy! Still, we didn't have a big van, BUT we had two vehicles. We could still get our family around by driving half in the truck and half in the van. (This usually meant that The Lawyer drove the truck with the big boys and I took the crying baby and little ones with me in the van!) It bothered The Lawyer and honestly, I found it made me feel sad to split our family up even to travel short distances to church and such.Yet, it worked.

After Christmas, my mom came to visit- which was so lovely for us. We had the logistical complication of trying to pick her up from the airport. I couldn't go with the kids because we couldn't fit another person in the van. We tried to rent a 12 passenger van but there weren't any available in the Richmond area. One day we double buckled two children and went to the Science Museum. When we picked up The Lawyer from work, my mom insisted on riding on the floor of the van. Again. . . we cringed and knew that our van was awfully full.

The Lawyer and I had a hard conversation. (This was on Wednesday last week.) He was looking for vans online and was only finding 15 passenger vans or vans that cost more than the trade in value of our Odyssey. Neither of us thought the options were good. He was feeling antsy and insisted that we couldn't keep doing this (driving 9 people in a 7 person Honda!). Though I agreed with him, I didn't feel like we had heard from the Lord on this. Even if, after nearly a year of praying, God wasn't going to GIVE us a van, I thought His provision would still be obvious. Maybe we would find an amazing deal on a van. Maybe someone would offer to buy our Odyssey. Maybe we could work out an equal trade of our van for a 12 passenger. But spend money? I asked The Lawyer to please just hold on a little while longer.

On Friday I took the kids to the library. I saw a white 12 passenger van there. I said to R (my vehicle guy), "There's the van I want." He pointed out that it was an E350. "That's as powerful as the Alexander's van, Mom." he said. "We don't really need that. But it would be great for pulling things."

As we were walking out of the library, that van was pulling away. "There goes your van, Mom," R joked.

Friday night we had friends from Lynchburg stop in for a quick visit. This is a wonderful family with six girls. They drive a 12 passenger Chevy van. Our kids waited outside to greet them as soon as they parked. Mr. G came into our house and commented on The Lawyer's big truck. I nearly quipped, "but I was praying for a van" but I kept the thought to myself (didn't want to upset The Lawyer by mentioning a van and also recognized that we were blessed to have a big truck given to us). (We wondered later if they could have anything to do with our big surprise, by R points out that they prefer Chevy vans.)

After the bigger kids went to bed, I fell asleep on the couch with G. The Lawyer did his lawyerly Friday night things on his computer. He thought he heard something outside, but didn't see anything besides the Christmas lights reflected in the front window.

Around midnight I was going to bed while The Lawyer locked up. Then, he called me to the front door and asked me to look outside. I wasn't sure I could believe my tired eyes. There, only ten feet from our front door, pulled up onto the grass, was a TWELVE PASSENGER FORD E350 VAN. It was lightly frosted in the cold night air and the light from the garage was reflecting off a huge blue bow across the windshield. It was beautiful. Standing there, with my face against the cold front door,  felt surreal and magical. (Though I know magical is not the right word when I'm talking about an act of the Lord!) The Lawyer, disbelieving, went out in his socks. There, on the front seat was the key to the van, the title (listing it as a gift), an envelope with cash and James 1:17 on it, and a card which said simply: TO THE CURTIS FAMILY FROM GOD.

There followed a few hours of praise and wonder. We sat by the front door in awe. I cried. We speculated who might have given this extravagant gift. Then, we decided not to wonder on that and to simply accept it as from God. We were beside ourselves. It was too crazy. We were humbled that God would do this for US. We don't deserve it. We were humbled that someone was so generous to US. (Are we that generous?!) Someone knew our need and responded to God's prompting, and did it in such a way as to make it a beautiful surprise. The bow and the note really made me cry- this wasn't just a need met, but someone saying "you are loved. I want to surprise you and give you a great gift."

The next morning we didn't say anything, but waited for the kids to notice. Of course, it was R who first looked out the front window and saw the van. "Hey!" he exclaimed. "Is that our new van?!" Such celebration followed! And this is an Ebenezer for our family- a firm place to come back to when our faith wavers- we can remember this time of great provision, of prayers answered, of seeing God give generously, amazingly to us from His goodness.

Phil. 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.


Debbie Millman said...

THANK YOU for sharing this amazing story! He is SO good to us!!!!!!

Kristi said...

Wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing God's goodness to you. Praise the Lord!