For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 4 The Story that Started Me Talking--My Truck

In my post Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 1 I mentioned that my friend John Perron challenged me. He asked me why I don't talk more about what God is doing or has done for me. He knows there is a reason I tell people I am God's favorite. It's because God treats me like I'm His favorite. He is lavish with His kindness and gifts, and John asked why I don't talk about that more.

He specifically mentioned my truck.

A lot of you don't know about my truck, and he only knows part of the story on my truck, so let me share with you all the story about Farmer Ted.

I think to truly understand God's hand in how I lost Farmer Ted, it is important to know about God's hand in how I got him in the first place. A comment later will make much more sense if you know the story from the beginning.

My husband died in February 2011. I hadn't been single in over 19 years. I had not been single my entire adult life. There was so much I didn't know and so much was overwhelming, not to mention that with the happenings of the last 8 months, I was an emotional wreck trying to hold life together for my kids.

Do you get that this was not the most stable place I've ever been and probably not the place I would choose to make big decisions from?

A month after my husband died, my van became ill. I had put in a few thousand dollars in repairs the year before, and I was looking at putting in at least a few thousand more, and that didn't include the "expected" work. It was time for the van to go.

I had never picked out a vehicle on my own, and I have had some less than glorious experiences with men who sell and/or repair vehicles, and I didn't really want to buy new, and I knew nothing about buying used and....just breathe, Jerri, just breathe....

That was my mantra a lot.

Just breathe, Jerri, just breathe.

In mid-April, I called my brother-in-law who is the best mechanic and one of the most automobile-knowledgeable people on the planet and got some guidance.

"I want a truck. I know nothing about trucks. What do you suggest?"

Without hesitation, "Toyota Tundra, under 60,000 miles. You don't have to buy new. They are great trucks."

I had a starting point.

I didn't want to buy new. Actually, the idea of finding my way through a new car experience was more than I could fathom, so I got on Craigslist. I found a beautiful 2005 Tundra with camper having about 35,000 miles. Crazy good. Probably too good.

I asked my cousin Rae to look at it for me since she and her husband are all things truck. She called, asked the questions, talked to the lady, called me and said, "This is the perfect truck for you. You need to buy it."

Except I didn't.

Instead, I survived my mom's first birthday without her and my daughter's first birthday without her dad and my first mother's day without a husband and without a mom and prepared for my first anniversary in 20 years in which I wasn't married. The last thing on my mind was a truck.

Except the van was getting sicker.

Astonishingly, the truck was still for sale. If you know Craigslist, you know how utterly impossible that is.

Finally, I went over and drove it, and I really liked the truck, and although I asked for a few days to think about it, I was on the phone before I ever got home. I wanted the truck.

Then I found out I had to rearrange some funds so I could get a cashier's check to pay the owner. That was another ten days. About day 2, the owner called me. "Jerri, someone has called and wants to look at the truck. What should I do?"

"Let them look at the truck."

"What if he wants to buy it?"

"Then it is his truck. He gets the truck he needs. You sell the truck you need to sell, and I don't get a truck God doesn't want me to have. We all win. Really. It's okay."

He looked at the truck. The owner called. The disgust was obvious in her voice, "He didn't even drive it. He opened the door and said, 'This isn't leather interior,' was rude, and left." I laughed. "Jerri, this is your truck."

She knew it. I knew it. My cousin new it. We were just waiting for everything to work through.

And it did.

On June 1, six weeks after I first saw this truck listed, nearly 2 weeks after I knew I wanted it, one day before my dreaded anniversary, I drove home in my new truck. I loved that truck.
I don't think I have ever driven a vehicle I enjoyed more than that truck. It was perfect. He was beautiful, perfect condition, easy to drive. He was blessed. He was God's gift. Farmer Ted was most certainly my truck.

In the next 2 1/2 years, he had some minor repairs done, and then he went shimmy crazy on me once. Took two days for the repair men to figure out what was up with my beloved Farmer Ted. I have no clue how many hours they put in or the parts they tried. Nothing worked, and I was getting nervous. Finally, the manager called. Would I be willing to let him send a tech to the tire shop and let them replace the tires with heavy duty "the life Jerri really lives" kind of tires? It wouldn't be cheap, but they had tried everything from rotating tires, to balancing, to adjusting the front end, to fixing this and that, realigning, and then some. Nothing worked. This was all they could come up with despite the fact the tires looked perfect. He told me honestly, "I'm not sure it will work. In fact, it is a long shot that it is the tires, but we have no other idea."

I started to laugh. "Oh, thank goodness I'm not crazy. I thought it was the tires the whole time but couldn't figure out how since they look like they are in perfect shape. I think this is what we should do."

And they did.

And Farmer Ted was fine.

While I was thankful to have Farmer Ted back, I was dreading that bill. They had spent HOURS on the truck and who knows how much trying different parts. Just taking the truck to get the tires had been 6 hours of tech time lost on my truck.

Just breathe, Jerri, just breathe.

When the manager of Christian Brothers handed me the bill, I was shocked. Surely there was a mistake. He went over it with me. "The tires were this much." He pointed at a number. "The bushings were this much." He pointed at the other number. "This is how much they come to."

Uh. What about everything else? You know, like labor?

He shrugged. "I'm not worried about it." He jerked his head back toward the bay where the techs worked. "We're all good with this."

Is it appropriate to hug a car repair shop manager? I didn't know, so I didn't. Instead, I handed him my credit card, paid the absurdly underpriced bill, and drove Farmer Ted home...crying tears of gratitude the whole way.

That is just how blessed and good my 2 1/2 years with Famer Ted were. It was a good 2 1/2 years.

Then it came to an abrupt end.

On November 1, 2013, I texted my kids to let them know I was leaving a friend's house and would be home in about 20 minutes.

I was headed home, driving down a road I had driven untold times, nearing a large intersection when a teenage kid heading my direction, turning across my lane of traffic, didn't look up at the light, didn't look at the traffic coming toward him, just followed the car in front of him...right into my lane...right in front of me.

When the screeching and crunching stopped, the kid and his car had finished the turn. (I don't know about his car, but I'm guessing from what I was told it was totaled. He miraculously was unhurt.)

Farmer Ted and I sat in the intersection, and from what I could see. It was bad.

I just sat there.

Honestly, I was afraid to move because I was afraid my knees would give way if I tried to stand, and I didn't want to look stupid. Plus, traffic was still going by us, and I have read too many reports of folks surviving an accident only to be hurt by folks driving by. I was safer in my truck.

Almost instantly, three women were by my door asking if I was okay. They had seen everything and would give their accounts. They had already called 911. Police were on the way. Seconds later a policeman was by my other door. He had an ambulance on the way.

I sat there still stunned.

I called my kids. "There has been an accident, and I'm going to be a bit later than I thought." Since I'm an emergency responder, they didn't question. They assumed I was helping. Never occurred to them I was being helped. I had chosen my words carefully just for that reason.

I texted John. "I've been in a wreck. I think my truck is totaled." I wanted him to know in case this took awhile and I needed someone to go to the house. He's the only one the kids had permission to let in the house, and I thought I might need backup.

I kept waiting to hurt. I kept thinking I was so much in shock that I just wasn't feeling how much pain I was in.

When the ambulance arrived, they did their check and asked me all the right questions, and finally I said, "Really. I think I'm fine. If we were to swap places, and you could tell me exactly what this feels like, I'd tell you to take some ibuprofen, keep a rolled towel behind your head to keep your neck curve protected, and you probably won't like being you in 48 hours because that is how long soft tissue takes to work through the trauma. Really. I would think you were blessed  and God took good care of you."
When I stepped out of the ambulance and saw Farmer Ted, I realized how truly blessed I was.

 See that big bump under the hood? That is part of the side of the motor that was sitting on top of the motor.

 You can't see it from here, but radiator isn't okay. The axle mostly looked alright. Mostly.

But when I looked closer, I could see, and really, my stomach rolled.

The frame was bent. Not only was Farmer Ted totaled, but there was no denying just how bad it was...or blessed I was.

The next concern for me became how to get home to my kids. We were still new to the area, and while I knew people, I didn't know phone numbers, and I didn't know anyone well enough to call to pick me up. You might be wondering about my friend I texted to check on the kids if I needed him. Well, he was over 30 minutes away at his son's activity. Asking him to check on my kids if I had to go to the hospital was one thing, but just getting a ride home? Surely they had taxis here.

I don't know. I didn't have to find out. Two of the witnesses, opened their hearts and their car door and told me they would happily take me home. As it turned out, they are believers in Christ, and we had great church and worship time as they drove me home, and they openly agreed in God's safety because, "We still can't believe you walked away from that unhurt. That's a miracle."

Yep. That's God.

As it turned out, the young lady had been the prom date of a wonderful young man I volunteered with at the volunteer fire department.

They were beautiful women. They were God-gifts.

While some folks know I totaled my truck and I walked away with only a bit of soreness, let me tell you what few folks know.

First of all, my children go everywhere with me. It's what we do. We load in the truck, go somewhere, and talk. It's good family time.

On that day, we were all at the front door when I stopped and said, "You know, I'm just going to run in and run out (at our friends'). Why don't y'all stay home and get school done that you need to do? I won't be gone an hour."

They hugged and kissed me, told me they loved me, and went back to their rooms.

My daughter always sat up front, and my son sat behind her. Had they been in the truck, the impact--you know, the one so great it bent the frame--would have been on their side.

I thank God for airbags, but there are no airbags in the backseat, and while an airbag "helps", how much could it help against impact that bends truck frames?

As we all expected, Farmer Ted was declared totaled. Folks had told me about their experiences with the paltry sums offered in exchange for their vehicles. I doubted I would get anything near what Farmer Ted was worth. When the phone call came to negotiate, I braced myself. When the woman gave me the total, I asked her to repeat herself.

She did.

I was silent.

"Ma'am, do you feel that is an unfair settlement?"

I answered, "Let me make sure I understood you." I repeated the number back to her.

She assured me that was the right number and again asked about the fairness.

I assured her I thought it was fair. It was within dollars of being $2,000 more than I had originally paid for Farmer Ted.

How do you buy a used truck, drive it 2 1/2 years, total it, and make $2,000?

Only God.

During the process of settling with insurance companies, I spent a lot of time on the phone with the other driver's insurance. The representative and I ended up having long conversations about faith, God, His goodness, and the story of how I got Farmer Ted in the first place. One day while we were discussing specifics about the wreck and settlement, he grew very quiet.

"Jerri?" We had been on first name basis for awhile. "Do you believe God knows what is going to happen?"

Yes, I do.

Again, he was quiet. "Jerri, 2 1/2 years ago God knew you'd be in this wreck, and He held that truck for you. I'm looking at the pictures and the written reports and all the notes, and the fact you aren't hurt just shocks me."

As he had done multiple times, he asked me if I needed to see a doctor. Get an MRI. At least get x-rays? I assured him that really I was totally fine. Not even sore.

He said it's just because he's dealt with wrecks like this and no one walks out unhurt and he wanted to make sure I was fine because really this was a bad wreck, so bad that...he grew very quiet. Then he said in a voice I can't describe:

"I've read a lot of reports and seen a lot of injuries. You should be in the hospital as it is, but if you hadn't been driving a truck that big, not just a truck but one that big, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I'd be writing your kids a check. Jerri, God gave you that truck because He knew you'd have this wreck and He knew what it would take to keep you alive. He just gave you the 2 1/2 years to enjoy it as an extra gift."

People wonder why I think I am God's favorite. Part of it is because God gave me a wonderful truck to drive for 2 1/2 years, and I'm still here to tell about it.

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