Last weekend, my family traveled to Florida so that my brothers could compete in a water polo competition with their team. We set out Friday morning, and arrived late Friday night. It was lots of fun, seeing some of downtown Orlando, enjoying the warmer weather (I got a little bit sunburned!) and watching them play water polo in an outdoor pool.
The issues began with Daddy's wallet being lost/stolen the first night. We scoured the hotel room, and the path that he had taken from where we parked the car, but it wasn't to be found. We had to cancel his credit cards, and Mom and I did all the driving for the rest of the trip since he didn't have his license.
Everything went good for a while from there. Our water polo team lost every game on Saturday, but they played really well in the last game on Sunday, so the tournament ended pretty well for us, considering. Then my family went up to St. Augustine, FL to do some sight-seeing while we were all the way down in Florida! My siblings and I had never been south of our state before.
We had a lovely motel suite in St. Augustine, and spent Sunday night there. We enjoyed climbing the lighthouse (another first for me and my siblings) and walking around downtown, which was still lit up with Christmas lights Sunday afternoon and evening. Monday morning we toured the fort, Castillo de San Marcos and dipped our toes in the chilly Atlantic on a warm January day. We left around 12:30pm, with our GPS estimating an arrival time for home of 7:36pm.
We stopped for a late lunch around 2, which bumped our eta back to 8:39pm. Around 6:30, we started seeing the battery light come on the dash of our suburban, and the info read "Battery not charging." We pulled off the interstate around 6:30pm. Our battery died, and we discovered the alternator was out. We waited about an hour and a half for the AAA tow truck. While we waited, we prayed that God would get our car fixed so we could get home that night.
The tow truck arrived, and towed us to AutoZone, where a nice mechanic named Al happened to be already on the premises, and he worked quickly to get the alternator out so that we could match it to a replacement before the AutoZone closed at 9pm. He successfully replaced the alternator and the battery before the AutoZone closed, and we were very excited to get back on the road around 9pm! But when we tried to start the suburban, the key wouldn't even turn. It was a huge disappointment. What was wrong now?
Al, and the AutoZone workers David, Kenny and Diana all tried to help us figure out what was wrong for about an hour and a half. We were so tired, and past ready to get home. There was a snowstorm expected to hit sometime the next morning, and our situation was starting to look pretty bad. I couldn't think of what to pray but please, God, please, God, over and over silently. They tried all kinds of things, climbing under the car with limited tools, trying to rock it into gear, but eventually figured that the transmission was locked for some reason. They reluctantly gave up, and recommended we get a hotel room for the night and get it to a shop in the morning. David called his friend Rusty to tow the suburban somewhere safe for the night, and then he and Diana drove us to a motel.
I was so grateful and appreciative of all their effort, but it was very disheartening that they weren't successful. To go through all the trouble of replacing the battery and alternator, only to have the development of another problem just when we thought all was fixed and have to give up when it seemed like we were SO CLOSE to getting home like we had hoped and prayed was very discouraging.
We checked in to the motel around 11pm, talked over some plans for the morning and then tried to get to sleep around midnight. The general attitude of the room was pretty glum and resigned. We'd given up on getting home that night. I figured God hadn't seen fit to answer our prayer. We turned out the lights, and as I tried to get comfortable and go to sleep in spite of my incredibly stuffy nose (I was coming down with a cold), I wondered why. I could see why He let us go through the situation, it was a truly amazing experience, how kind and willing to help all our new friends had been. I knew that it might not be in His plan for us to get home soon, and I anticipated unhappily the possibility of being stuck there, hours from home, for the next few days during the snowstorm.
But God was not done yet. A few minutes after we turned out the light, Rusty called, and said that he had fixed the suburban! He took off a safety of some kind so that you can change gears even while you're driving down the road (which would be a very bad idea, of course), but fixed the car so that it would crank, and we could drive it. We were thrilled, and so thankful that Rusty was kind enough to try to fix our car for us in the middle of the night! Besides giving us one more instance of an extremely kind and generous person being Christ-like, God used the "last straw" of our situation to show us that we should never give up, even when the situation looks impossible.
Rusty brought our suburban to our motel, and we piled in at 1:12am. We finished the last leg of our trip, and were home by 3:30am. Praise God, it was a wonderful experience. Now that I can look back on it, I know I wouldn't wish to change one thing. It was beautiful, an awesome display of God's power, and a sweet lesson in learning to trust Him more.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! - Lamentations 3:22-23