I don't just mean for things like the roof over our heads, the fact that we're all safe and happy, well-fed and warm, etc. I am grateful for those things, and for my salvation in Christ Jesus, and for a myriad of other things I can't even begin to list here. But I mean I have a lot to be grateful for just this past holiday weekend.
Here's what happened to us over the weekend:
First, everything seemed to be going well. A bit of a tiff between my wife and I on Thanksgiving day, but nothing major. I don't like the way she cooks poulty and she doesn't like the way I like it, so there. I ate what I liked, left what I didn't, and we went on. Nothing big, and we had a wonderful meal. Lots of leftovers and some really great football to watch, although I wouldn't have minded some of the outcomes being different. Oh well, still a good day.
Friday was just rest and relaxation. Wonderful. I finally felt like I was rested and unstressed. Normally, it can take me a week to leave a job I don't like at work and be fully relaxed; this time, for any combination of reasons, I was able to completely unwind by Friday of a 4-day weekend, and that was reason enough to be grateful.
Saturday was fine, too -- to a point. We got up earlier than normal, and scampered about to go get family haircuts. My wife's is wonderful, and she's loving how it's turning out. My son always keeps his about a quarter of an inch long, and never waivers from that. I got mine cut. It was nice, and we left with a good portion of the day in front of us. We had a Sam's Club run to make, and after that, it was off for home with the children getting a bit tired and ready to relax at home. I was feeling the same way. So, we went happily home and as we pulled into our parking space, it happened.
The brakes on the car ground grotesquely with that metallic, crunching sound.
I've heard that sound before. Last time I heard it, the brake job that came with it cost me a ton of money and the car was out of commission for a good while during the repair process. My heart sank. My wife and I looked at each other; we'd both heard it. We knew the brakes needed to be done; we just kept hoping for more time. With my commute being so much longer now than it was in September and prior, the brakes just wouldn't be stalled any longer. At 2:45 on Saturday afternoon, panicking about the fact that my contract is going to expire at the end of December, I have to go out and find a place to fix my brakes on a Sunday during a holiday weekend and hopefully do it all in one day. If God is willing, it will only be replacing pads and maybe a rotor. The expense was frightening, but I had no choice; we need the car. It's all we have.
I started calling at 3:21 p.m. Nobody was open on Sundays. After four phone calls, I gave up. I'd have to book an appointment for Monday and miss work. No work, no pay; it was an ugly situation, but I didn't feel I had any choice. I stormed off in frustration to have a cigarette and just settle down. So much for quitting over the weekend.
My wife intruded on my internal soliloquy of anger. "Here's a place," she said. "They're less than three and a half miles away, they have a really super website, and they are open 8-2 on Sunday. See if you can get the car in tomorrow."
Hmph, I snuffled. How DARE she come up with a ray of sunshine in my gloom. I'll call, all right; and I'll rain on HER parade when it's ridiculously expensive and there's a minimum $500 charge for work on Sundays.
I did call; after speaking briefly with a nice young man, I came smiling and panting in relief out of the bathroom (or maybe that was from smoking, I don't know) with a new sense of hopefulness. I had an appointment at 8 a.m. to have the brake pads replaced and the rotors re-surfaced, and all of that was competitively priced with the national chains that AREN'T open on Sunday. Ah, thank you, Lord. Another bullet dodged.
Oh, I never mentioned to my wife that she was right ... of course. How could I? That would be ... well, that just isn't going to happen.
I opened my phone to check on the phone number I'd called; I thought I may need it if I had trouble finding the place or was running late the next morning. A black screen stared back at me.
"Hey, my phone shut off. What the ...?"
I powered the phone on, but then I heard the familiar sound of it shutting down. Confused, I activated the power again. The phone powered up, and buzzed happily at me to announce it was on -- but the screen remained black. Tapping on the back of the LCD, the screen would flicker back on briefly with each tap before going black again.
GREAT. My phone's display has died. While making desperate phone calls to find a repair shop open on Sundays to fix my car, my phone died. Just over two years old; they don't make 'em like they used to, eh?
The problem is, my wife and I fulfilled a two-year contract as of October. We were month-to-month with our carrier, and I didn't want to commit to another two-year contract. But to get a reasonable price on the phone, or to take advantage of any of the promotional offers the carrier is touting, a two-year commitment is required. So I had to bite the bullet and go get a new phone; but, while I was at it, I got one for my wife too, since buying one got us one free and with rebates, etc., both end up being free. Okay, so I'll sign up for two more years.
So now I have a car that actually stops when I step on the brakes, and a phone that I've wanted for a long while, and we have a whole lot more credit debt than we did on Friday. Still, I'm grateful, and here's why:
- The car only needed brake pads and rotor re-surfacing. It could have been much, much worse.
- The phone deal ends up being free, so after 6-8 weeks when the rebate comes back, we're back to square one with that situation. And if we have to cancel the contract, it would be about the same as the cost of the two phones anyway ... my wife says. I'll trust her judgment.
- The brakes could have failed altogether, and while we were out and about rather than as I was pulling into the parking space. The kids could've been hurt; my wife could've been hurt. Any or all of us could have been killed. No, the Lord was definitely watching over us.
- The costs aren't really as bad as I thought for either of them. And we got good, fast service on the car (I was only there for about an hour), and we had a GROWN-UP, who was COMPETENT, servicing our requests at the cellular store. THAT was a refreshing change.
Overall, it wasn't as bad as it initially seemed; it's just that things never come one little bit at a time. It seems as though when it rains, it pours, and the rapid succession of events probably made them look larger to me than they actually were.
In the end, I'm grateful. Our family is (seemingly) healthy, and happy. We love each other dearly. We like each other too. We enjoy time together. I'm working, and we're going to be okay, at least until the end of the year. We are praying and doing what we can between now and then to find something for longer-term, but for the moment, we're all right.
And this moment is the only one we have, isn't it?