Thursday, August 4, 2016

Every Day Miracles, a couple of ours

Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to Him than they are? 
Matthew 6:26

I think it's time to tell some stories about this last year.
Today I was inspired to do so a couple of times due to a book I was reading called, Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters...don't let the book title fool you. It's quite fun to read. It's written by Elder (now Saint) Paisios who only just died in 1994. He died about 2 months after I graduated high school, a very short 22 years ago. I have read a couple of books that had mentioned him lately, and he sounds like the most precious, loving human who ever lived. I saw this book was written by him and it immediately sucked me in by his self deprecating and lovely personality.

The first thing that convinced me was the very first paragraph where he bemoaned the fact that he didn't take the time to write down more of the miracles that happened on the Holy Mountain while he lived there. He had to write the book on memory alone and he wished that he had taken more notes. But as he mentioned, these miracles happened so often that one hardly wrote them down because they would have to write a lot. How similar is this to being a parent?! Our children do miraculous things on a daily basis! They sit up, they roll over, they crawl, they walk, they climb up, they say two words in a row, they sing the alphabet, the list goes on forever!!! I know I'm often feeling guilty for not writing down enough of the fantastic things that are mile-stones in my seven precious children's lives.

I then read about the very simple minded monk who thought that the Ascension was a saint. He would pray to, "Saint Ascension". He received a sick monk one day at his monastery and didn't have any nutritious food to feed the sick man. He went to the cellar that contained such limited food supply and stuck his hand out the window that was on cliffs high above the Mediterranean Sea. He prayed, "Saint Ascension, please give me some food so that I might feed this man." And into his hand jumped a fish. He gave glory to God and made the sick monk a fish.
Rewind to last week. One of our kids threw up in our room last Wednesday, then on Friday night I caught the bug but managed to avoid the throw-up part (thank God!) On Sunday night the real fun began when the baby got sick and the roller coaster has not stopped yet. The 24 hour stomach bug is much more serious and lasts longer when hitting a family of nine.
Tonight, at dinner time, a family from the church drove into our driveway. Fortunately I had gotten dressed by this point, that is a small miracle in and of itself. I answered the door and they happily handed me a bag of pre-made food. They had some leftovers from the soup kitchen they had served tonight. A gallon of lentil soup and a box of sandwiches. Wow. I felt like Saint Ascension had just placed a fish in my hand. God certainly uses what ever means to take good care of us...and in spite of my lack of faith, God handed us dinner tonight. This sort of thing could be called coincidental, but is it really? I needed a break, and this was just what I needed.
The last year is literally a blur. I know that it was very hard and so hard in fact, that I literally had to give over any semblance of control over my life into the hands of God. This has really changed me and now that the hard year is over and we have had some really nice few months of breathing room, I'm extremely thankful for it all. There are a few miracles to note. I'll try to write one or two of them down now.
After we got here we had only our nine seat Yukon. It was a nice car that we had bought only the year before. We had to sell both our beater car and our beater truck in Alaska, they weren't worth bringing to Washington. But now we only had one car and very often my husband has to be to church an hour or two before I do if we go up to the Monastery for church. We were trying to figure out how to afford a second car. We realized that we may have to sell the Yukon to afford a second car or hope that God could drop a good beater car into our lap. The bummer is is that the Monastery is much further away than our church in Alaska was and it's up a major highway 15 minutes, and it's up in the mountains another thousand feet up and in the winter here the roads are more sketchy than in Alaska, so the reality is that we needed a second reliable and hopefully four-wheel-drive car. We had no idea how we were going to afford it.
About two nights later our Yukon was stolen out of our driveway because brilliant me left the keys in the ignition and left the doors unlocked. They took it out, rallied it very hard, it had branches stuck in it. Basically they beat it all to hell. Then they returned it to our driveway and went and stole two other cars that same night. It was exactly one year ago tonight. My husband woke me up on August 4th (our daughter's birthday) and asked me if I had gotten into a wreck the day before and had forgotten to tell me. I tried to recall and strangely had a dream about being in the back of our car while going over a huge jump and the boys driving it were having a grand time...but I realized that that had been a dream and I just couldn't remember crashing the car the day before. Boy, that was a headache, but at that point so much other stuff had happened that this was like no big deal. It was a big deal but it was comical at that point at how much "temptation" had been thrown at us by this point. I don't really know another way to phrase it other than as temptation, but I could also call it part of our struggle of moving here.
We had just paid off the Yukon with the money from selling the house. My husband was convinced that he had just taken the insurance off of it and that we only had liability. Even if we had full coverage State Farm would surely not cover this theft when we left the keys in the car. I told him I'd call them anyway just to check. We had insurance, full coverage with a $500 deductible. And apparently they still cover it if the crazy wife leaves the keys in the car. I didn't hide that.

State Farm offered us a settlement of about $13,000, this was a much lower number than I thought it should be. (I figured I'd just share the car prices since it makes it easier to follow). I decided to do the work of taking all of their cars that they compared ours to, a list of about 30 and go through the list with a fine-toothed comb to be sure that the comps were valid and in-line with what is reasonable to comp us with. I found many errors on their part. With the VIN they provided me I could actually look up the comp vehicle that was for sale to see if they were correct with their pricing and list of amenities our car had versus the others. Remember, this was a NICE Yukon with decent miles...not the middle-of-the road one. It had taken me about 3 weeks of research before we decided on this Yukon the previous year. It had even just had a new transmission installed in it at 80K miles.

I read some articles written by insurance adjusters saying that they want to please the insured, but it is their job to offer a too-low of a bid to see if they can get off easy. They encourage the insured to do their own research, so I researched my tail off. I followed one of the fellow's advice and came up with one perfect comp and asked for that exact number. I finally got a different person on the phone after playing phone-tag with them for about 10 days. She had been doing this a while and was happy with my number. I asked for $17,376 (the number was more than what I had paid in Anchorage, but the reality was is that is what I *needed* in order to replace it with a comparable car). This even included the extra 8% tax that I asked for because you must pay sales tax on cars in Washington and the insurance is supposed to pay that. They also added in extra to cover the new license and registration fee of a new car. In the end we got about two thousand dollars more than what we had paid for it a year before that. I was stunned.

With all of the research I was doing on replacing the car and how expensive and virtually impossible it really would be to find one exactly like ours, I was very pleased to hear that the fellow that owned the body shop right in town was selling his Suburban. Also black. And he wanted $3000 and was happy to change out all of the seats in order to make it fit nine people. He liked his Suburban just fine but wanted a newer one for his family. I wasn't sure weather to trust him or to be leery of the car since it was older and had a lot more mileage...but it just felt like such a good match. The mechanic that I had become acquainted with worked on this Suburban and knew the owner. He assured me that it was a fine car and we shouldn't be afraid to buy it. In general it wasn't as nice, but for $3000 and it being generally the same vehicle? It was hard to ignore the fact that God was handing us our solution. This left us with $14,000 to find a good daily driver and leave the Suburban at home for the most part...just take it out for family outings like church, but there was no reason I couldn't normally drive the newer, smaller car to run errands while the kids stayed home.

So, to complete this story, I agreed to my husbands long-standing wish of buying a new Subaru. I was usually the scrooge of the family especially with cars. With this sort of down payment it was hard to say no. I don't mind researching cars or haggling over them, so I found a good deal on a 2015 Forrester in the color we both liked that was on sale to get ready for the new 2016 models. I asked them to lower the price and they bumped it down another thousand dollars In all honesty, I could not find a used Subaru for a better deal, less money, sure, but the miles get wracked up on them so fast that it didn't end up being worth it. We now have an affordable car payment and it will be paid off in 4 years (well more like 3 years now). We have had zero buyers remorse on either vehicle and it's exactly what our family needed exactly when we needed it. It was a bit hairy of a way to get there, but hey, Glory to God!
Another big miracle was when our rental house caught on fire. I'll have to share that another time as it's late.

Our Yukon the day we found it totaled.

Officer taking prints.

Our newer Suburban. Can you tell the difference? He even put my nice tires on it.