Sometimes life just breaks your heart. And the smallest of things can push it over the edge and shatter it into a million pieces.
The smallest of things was the Pinewood Derby car.
Rewind to the weekend of January 13th.
Two weeks of constant hammering resulted in a very down, disenchanted me.
Girl Scout cookies were upon us. Anaiah usually comes in about last in her troop because, alas, I work outside of the home. I’m unavailable from 7:30 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday. This town and all it’s organized forces are pretty much built on the idea that #1) Mom stays home and Dad works, or #2) there’s a huge local network to support Mom, Dad, or both if they aren’t together and both work, or #3) there’s a huge local network to support Mom and Dad if they are together and both work. Either way, we don’t fit and normally our cookie sales show it. We fell off the nuclear family bus somewhere in the bowels of 2012, and that pretty much determines our fate with the townsfolk. We can’t do booths or deliver cookies during the week and we don’t personally know many people here, so Anaiah ends up selling the bare minimum and I hear about it until the next cookie season. As a side note, “personally knowing” someone here apparently means I’ve gone from kindergarten to twelfth grade with them, or I am in their immediate or extended family, or I was once in their immediate or extended family, or we share children, and since none of those apply to us central Texas natives, our cookie sales and social acceptance hover around a solid D+. Cookie season is an adventure.
Work took an unusually trying turn. I love my job and most of the people there, but a few scattered weeks of projects that never quite end had my anxiety through the roof. I didn’t have a chance to adequately complete my normal job duties because of all of the last-minute additional tasks thrown my way, and no structure or routine makes me a little crazy. Or a lot crazy. Winter weather or even just the potential of winter weather makes work exponentially more frantic…. and brine season is upon us, friends.
Katy (my cousin), Jarrod (her husband), and I decided to start the Whole30 on January 7th. Jasmine (my best friend from high school) and Keith (her husband) happened to be starting at the time. Katy and Jarrod live in Waco and Jas and Keith live north of Ft. Worth, so my support is long distance, but they’re amazing and it works. I deemed it a perfect time to jump off into the challenging pit of no dairy, legumes, sugar, gluten, or alcohol… right as cookie, derby car, and brine season kicked off. Oh, and I also committed to working out at least four days a week, drinking a gallon of water a day, reading at least 24 books in 2019 and completing two Bible studies simultaneously with two different groups of people, which requires me to get up at 4:15 am and go to sleep around 11 pm or so.
Which brings me to January 13th, sitting in my car by myself in my driveway, sobbing maybe a little bit uncontrollably, with my kids standing outside of my closed car door, trying to figure out if this was the time I finally lose my ever-loving mind and drive away, or maybe my head dramatically blows off due to stress and self-deprecating mommy guilt, or we all get back in the car, head south to the mall and buy a ton of stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have, efficiently and effectively boarding the over-compensation bus, which always dumps us off in the same place it picked us up, just more empty, broke, and completely convicted of our failures as humans in general, where we just suspected it prior to boarding.
January 13th we had a Tiger Den meeting. We don’t have a den leader, so the parents are working together to get us through this year. We have really great kids with really great parents so it works out. The meeting went well… mostly us moms sweating over the glue gun making bird houses while *someone’s* son (mine…) taught a captive audience how to make fart noises with his armpit. You can only get so much productivity out of seven-year-old boys on a Sunday afternoon… and who’s to say the fart noises won’t take them farther in future circles than the bird houses.
The meeting was wrapping up, and we all went outside to scout for birds. While the boys are looking with one of the dads, the moms gather around and start discussing the upcoming derby car race. I do not join in the conversation. The overwhelming consensus is that the cars are taken care of… they’re in the garage in the dads’ domain and the moms haven’t really seen them since they came home in the box. If you’ve never had derby car experience as I never had, “in the box” means a single block of wood in a box. Eager Cub and Boy Scouts across the nation carve this block of wood into a car (with the help of an experienced saw-wielding grownup, usually who helped create them) and design it to their liking, with the end goal of it being the fastest in the pack. They race them together on a predetermined date and the Derby Car King is crowned.
Anyway, this mom hadn’t looked at the block of wood, either, but it wasn’t in Dad’s garage awaiting clear coat. It was in its original box, in my center console, because I was hoping if I didn’t look at it it might go away or we might get the flu or Jesus would come back and I wouldn’t have to look at it and figure it out. How many days off, how many YouTube videos, and how many return trips to Home Depot and Hobby Lobby would I have to make to ensure that this block of wood evolved into something my son could take in public and race against his friends? Over the prior two weeks, so many situations had translated in my mind and heart to me falling short of enough, and this stupid block of wood combined with my son’s excited and expectant heart just broke me.
I said my holly jolly goodbyes to the other moms at the meeting and at least made it back to my driveway before the crazy came untucked. I found myself staring at this block of wood in my lap and couldn’t stop the tears, which soon became loud sobs that I couldn’t even pretend to reign in. About five minutes into my own personal train wreck, Jasmine called. She was calling about Whole30, but quickly asked what was wrong. I tried to dry it up, but thankfully twenty years of reading between my lines is an expertise of hers, and it saves me so many clumsy words. I very loudly told her that the kids were staring at me from outside the car and I had this block of wood in my lap that I could not transform into a car. She listened to me go on for a few minutes, then said, “When do you need it?” I said January 27th at 1 pm, and she said, “Easy. Keith is doing ours. He can make it, I can overnight it, Kannon can paint it, and you call it done.” I argued for about half a second, but I think that was out of some strange but innate southern politeness code, because honestly its close to the best thing I’ve ever heard. She told me to stop worrying about it and drink my water. I love her so much.
The derby car was built, primed, and overnighted on January 21st in plenty of time for Kan to decorate it and make it his own. It was sent via UPS, and was originally scheduled to be delivered on January 22nd. I tracked it the morning of the 22nd, and delivery had been pushed to the 23rd. The UPS guy usually comes as I’m heading back to work after lunch, so I normally get all of my deliveries in person. He’s pulling in my driveway as I’m getting in my car to go back to work. It is a beautiful dance we do. I went home for lunch on the 23rd, and he didn’t come. I closed the gate and let the dog out before heading back, as I do a few times a week.
When I returned home Wednesday evening after work, I fully expected to grab the package from the back porch. It wasn’t there. Tracking said it was delivered at 1:19 pm to the rear door. The gate was closed and the dog was out, but my UPS guy sometimes comes through the side gate and puts packages under the plant stand by the back door even so, which normally works out great. I started sweating a little, because if he said it was delivered, it was, and it was no where to be found. I walked to the front and back a few times to be sure and absolutely no sign of the car. I immediately started talking to God, and it wasn’t a “great is thy faithfulness” kind of conversation. It was a “why does everything have to be so hard” and “please don’t make me tell them it didn’t come” and “how am I going to replace this car” kind of conversation. I’m expecting the worst. I am expecting that my blessing is going to spoil right before my eyes, and I’m already taking the situation back from God, asking him to please, please fix it, all the while trying to fix it myself, and not knowing if it is even broken yet.
As soon as I laid down to sleep that night, the most horrible scenario hit me – the dog. Oh my goodness the dog was out. Violet is a sweet, beautiful, crazy, anxiety-ridden blue pit that absolutely obliterates anything she can get in her mouth. I have had packages left at the rear door many times prior, but they’d always been fairly big. She’d never bothered any before, but this package was smaller than a shoe box. I jumped out of bed, grabbed the flashlight, and walked the backyard in my pajamas and Uggs, trying desperately to find any sign of this poor car that I was now sure was being digested as I panicked. I covered every inch of the yard until it started pouring so heavily that I couldn’t keep my glasses clean. Off to bed I went, praying that it wasn’t so, praying that God would fix it, then taking it back from him and running scenarios in my head. I was sure there was no way this would end positively and there was some lesson to be learned. All I could see was my baby’s disappointed tears and another stamp of failure on my passport of parenthood. My stomach returned to my throat and I was back where I started. At some point in this loop, God said, “Trust equals peace, Chass. You can’t have the peace you’re asking for without fully trusting Me to take care of this. They go hand in hand.” Such a huge revelation brought on by a tiny derby car, but doesn’t it work that way most of the time?
Thursday morning found me in my favorite chair mulling over the word I received the night before. Abundant peace requires complete trust. The car was still in the back of my mind, but I was brought to the entrance of a few more more situations in my life in dire need of peace. In each situation, I realized I was holding the bulk of the issue on my shoulders, running scenarios in my mind, much like I’d been doing with the mysterious missing package the day before. I tend to tell God, “Alright, I’ll give You this part of the problem. I’m going to go ahead and hold on to this other part of it, and wait and see what you do with the part I gave you, before I give you the rest of it.” And God says, “No deal. All or nothing.” Then I shuffle the parts around and try the same conversation with God again, expecting Him to say something different. Lesson learned. It will take me beyond a lifetime to get my peace/trust ensemble exactly right, but I am so excited to start practicing. Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
At sunrise on Thursday morning, I’m dressed and ready to walk the yard again in the daylight. It takes two careful inspections of the yard before I see something sticking out of the ground in the very back near the fence line. My heart sinks a little as I discover a soggy, mauled cardboard box addressed to my son more than halfway buried in the wet dirt. I dig it up and sneak it into the house under my coat. Kannon is finishing his homework at the dining room table and I desperately do not want him to watch me open this thing. I somberly open the completely destroyed box, and find the most perfect, little, primed derby car you ever did see. Absolutely perfect. Okay. Here’s where the “great is thy faithfulness” conversation happens, and it happens big. It’s my favorite Thursday morning in all of my 37 years so far.
Derby Day came and went, and Kannon won first place in his den. He was on top of the world and the win was so timely for his little boy’s heart. He needed it badly. I’m not sure which one of us was more excited, but honestly, the journey was so much more rewarding than the end result. I think that was the point all along. We needed the reminder that we are loved, cared for and worth some effort. Jasmine and I never solved this particular problem when we were cruising the town at sixteen and seventeen, but rest assured this is the most important one we’ve thrown in on to date.
God is good ALL the time. We aren’t faithful and He knows it and is still good all the time. He gives us people who are capable and eager to pick up the shattered peces and glue them back together when we can’t do it ourselves. Sometimes He loves us best through the people he gifts us. Blessings abound, y’all. We just have to trust in our God, in ourselves and in our people. Once we get out of our own way, the rest is cake.