What really matters

Oct 25

The bumper sticker on the back of my car reads “Always make time for an adventure.”  I love it, and that is the way our little family rolls.

On Friday night, that’s what we were doing: we spent a great October evening with lifelong friends.  The kids ran around in the darkness, they decorated pumpkins, we had a delicious bonfire, awesome conversation, and crisp and cozy fall treats.

We left that party, and headed for a mini-venture as our family of four.  Brad surprised the girls and I by booking a hotel with a pool and hot tub in the town where his Wisconsin Badgers were playing.  We left the fall party, en route for the hotel.  I am the nighttime driver in our household, so I was driving.  The girls, exhausted from the fun, fell asleep as Brad spent an hour catching up after a long week.

He had a taxing week at work, and I have been processing much on my own: the end of the half-marathon season and no “what’s next” on the calendar, frustration with my skin/body/cancer, our third flood (more on that later), home disarray, and just life-minutiae stuff that creeps around all of us.  I was really white-knuckling it to stay positive and I had been sharing that with him.  On Thursday night I sat down with a bunch of my friends and they gently nudged me back to my perspective on what really matters.  I know my purpose, I love my people, I have everything I need.  God speaks to me in several ways: through emotion, through friends, through truth.  As we drove, Brad and I caught each other up on all these life details that we don’t always get to at the end of the long days.  We finished our conversation and I settled in to finish the drive in the quiet, peaceful car, my most priceless things in the car with me.

A deer popped on to the road in the lane to my left running across the road towards me.  I had the split-second choice of slamming the breaks, swerving right, or decelerating while staying in my lane.  I chose the latter option, and the poor deer crunched mightily into the left front corner of my front bumper, and took out the left lights, dented the fender, driver door and backseat door.  Immediately, I pulled over, and began uttering prayers of gratitude that we were safe and unharmed.  To my right was a telephone pole; thank God I did not swerve right.  Had I slammed the brakes, we likely would have hit the deer head on and perhaps the collision would have been worse and come through the windshield.  Even in this, we have much to be grateful for.  My loves are safe.  Thank you Jesus.

Our derailed weekend, three hours at a gas station in the wee hours in rural Indiana, and riding with the tow company back home from our “trip to nowhere” at 4:30am, I find myself thanking God for all of that because it could have been so much worse.

I feel grateful that — literally — the day of and the day before I had come to a new place of peace about being content with what I have and ignoring my have nots.  It made me really ready to trust God that this is all going to work out and we’re going to continue to have everything we need.

Remember the third flood I referenced earlier?  Our third flood of 2015 happened last week when Brad went out to his car and discovered that we had left not only the trunk of his car open all night, but also the back rear passenger door.  We’ve never done that before — ever — and are fanatical about checking things outside before going to bed.  Ironically, it also was the one night in the past two months where we had gotten rain.  A lot of rain, actually.  So Brad had a lot of water in his car.  The reason we were driving my car on our family adventure on Friday night was because Brad (gotta love a handy husband) had removed the backseat from his car so that it could dry out.

So, as it currently stands, we Andersons have half a car.  We fully expect my car is totaled.  Brad will hopefully put his car back together again tomorrow morning, and we’ll pick up a rental car so we will back ready to take on our normal lives.

For better or for worse, Brad and I are good at shouldering blows together.  I went to bed at 4:45am this morning with tears in my eyes.  I was not bitterly tearful as one might be; rather I was tearful as I thought of how grateful I am for my marriage.  I totaled a car tonight, we forfeited a memory-maker weekend adventure, racked up a whole new set of expenses, and we were super tired… yet we never treated each other with anything other than kindness and love.  No sniping or shaming or negativity.  Just a we’re-in-this-together resoluteness.  Wow–I am married to an awesome man.

I do mourn the car that took me on so many adventures.  It’s the car that brought both Maren and Greta safely home from the hospital after they were born.  I drove it during the years I worked as a high school teacher; I remember the exact spot along my route where the heat would finally kick on during my winter commute to school.  It’s a manual transmission, and I’ve giggled as the preschoolers in my car ask me, “What are you doing with that stick thing?” as apparently kids don’t see stick shifts often.  My dad and I went together to the Honda lot to buy the car in 2002 when I was receiving my first steady paycheck; it was one of my first grown-up experiences.  That car has been part of my life longer than Brad, so there are so many memories tied up in it: 205,050 miles worth of adventures, to be exact.  It’s been packed with climbing and camping gear, pack n plays and strollers, beach gear, lake gear, hiking gear, and snow gear.  I can look at any three carseats and know immediately which Tetris formation I need to achieve to get three kids buckled in safely across the back.  I’ve lived in five homes during the years I’ve had that car, and it’s helped move me each time.  Remember how I said I was sentimental about things?  I wasn’t kidding.

I don’t know what I’ll be driving next week or next month, but I’m certain that I have more adventures ahead.  I’m certain God is good.  I’m grateful my family is sleeping peacefully tonight.

My college roommate read the blog about my skin issues earlier this week and said she laughed through it — even though she knows it’s not funny — because she’s having a what-the-heck reaction to all of the “stuff” that keeps happening to us.  Inappropriate laughter is sometimes the only way to cope, and I sort of love it.  I joked to Brad tonight that my beloved bumper sticker “Always make time for an adventure” was purchased in Kauai, Hawaii, and shucky-darn, I’ll just have to head back there to pick up a new bumper sticker for whatever my new car will be.  I hope that you can giggle at our calamity because we are trying to laugh too.  We don’t know how everything will be okay, but we trust everything will be okay.  My loves and I are safe tonight.  Nothing else matters.


  1. Lori6NV /

    Oh friend, as one of the world’s-unluckiest-drivers I have totaled my fair share of vehicles (due to wildlife, errant taxicabs, and other less interesting problems). I, too, have always been amazed about how caring and kind (and not blame-y or grumpy) my husband has been. We’ve got good ones, sister. I’m so glad you, Brad, and the girls are safe. Maybe this is a little God-wink informing you that’s “what’s next” is out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new (or new to you) in the vehicle department. I’ll be praying that the car-replacing process is smooth. Or, you k he, that some magic fairy swoops in with a new Honda. Man, they are the best, my hubby drove his college Honda over 200k miles, too. Don’t sweat it. Keep your blog friends posted, and oh yeah, that poor silly deer. 🙁

  2. Kim Rourke /

    Oh Jen! The mystery of, “WHY???” rears its head again, and again you put it all into perspective. Hoping today is sunny skied and filled with little moments that will bring joy to your hearts and praying for continued strength for this new car “adventure.” Are you sure this isn’t a Hallmark movie script?

  3. Amazing story, amazing family!!! I’m not sure I have ever read one of your posts without getting teary! Your perspective on life touches my heart. Wishing you and your family many more happy adventures. Clear skies and clear roads ahead:)

  4. Mommaj /

    Phillipians 4:11-13 when I read this verse on Contentment, my heart breathes a Thank You for all of your safety. The Lord always has a plan for your safety and gracious hearts.

  5. Sometimes crap happens. It’s an imperfect world. It’s what happens next that really matters. It is comforting to know that we have a God who will be there through it all. We can do everything through Him who gives us strength. (Phil 4:13). You have a great perspective on life, born perhaps partly out of your struggle–but you are also so much more. How you cherish your family shines through and is a testament to a value system worth emulating. Your writing reminds me to be grateful.

  6. I’ve done the hit-a-deer-in-the-middle-of-the-night with loved ones asleep in the car (somehow didn’t total the car but did need to replace the radiator and we are now grill-less). I still remember how it feels.
    I’m sorry your fun weekend was halted — and the goodbye to a faithful vehicle — but so grateful you are all fine. And the new car can be a new blessing.