14 Years – Ode to My Car, Ministry and Lessons Learned

IMG_1091I called the towing service this morning to see if they could meet me at the ramp off 288.  My car had been sitting there since yesterday afternoon.  My roommate let me take her car to see that my car was still there today.  I informed the company it was and waited for about 20 minutes for them to arrive.

During that time, I had flashbacks from the 14 years I had my car.  I didn’t realize until today but my car has been an important part of my ministry and sanity.  We’ve been through a lot together and most of it was to help others.   I recalled some of the work we did together.

When I was a Virginia Jaycee, I drove around the state to train other Jaycees in the area of Project Management so they could improve on their leadership skills, provide projects that improved the fellowship of their chapters as well as meet the needs of their communities.  I drove around the state to promote and celebrate Camp Virginia Jaycee, a camp for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  I helped to raise money and sponsorships for campers to this camp where they could be free to do anything their hearts desired.  I spent my vacation time at the camp to see what it was like first hand and learned quickly how important my work would be, from their kisses, hugs, and words of thanks.  Yes, important work indeed.  

When I was a Customer Relations Trainer, I drove every day to share my gifts with those who were training to be new customer service representatives. For many, it was their first job and I was training them about life as much as about the work they were getting prepared to do. I trained those already working on the floor on how to relieve stress and enjoy their job.  I trained them on improving communication skills as well as how to improve in their computer software skills and most importantly, customer relations.

After I was laid off,  my car took me back and forth to the Baptist Theological Seminary, the Christian bookstore where I worked, and the two churches I served for four years.  We spent late nights, early mornings and multiple day trips together to get from one ministry to another.  I had to get to classes in the morning and work in the afternoon (or vice versa).  I remember once running late for a Missions mid-term exam, only to be stopped by a cop who wished me well on the exam, after he gave me my ticket.  Later the judge asked how I did on the exam and felt sorry enough for me to drop the charges.

IMG_0147After graduation, my car and I made the trek to Newton, Massachusetts where I served in my first fulltime vocational ministry position at a church.  We went through a LOT up there.  There were laughs and jokes in the car when I transported youth back and forth from one event to another.  We took a funny trip to Canopie Park with two funny sisters. There were a few trips back and forth to Overlook Farm, a part of Heifer International, to learn about how we can help third world countries in poverty and farm animal adoption.  I drove the car to many homes to fellowship and get to know families, to provide counseling and grief support when someone died, and to provide company for some of the elderly who were looking for simply a conversation with another friend.

I took the car around the state and region for personal retreat.  Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut.  We went across the state for horseback riding, leaf peeping, apple picking, beach surfing, blueberry picking and lighthouse catching.   There were many times we drove around in order for me to sharpen my photography skills. These trips brought some sanity back into my insanity.

It was during my time in Boston that she started to have troubles. We had to get a new transmission, tires, fan belts, batteries, brakes, oil things, hose stuff, and other items that I don’t remember.   Much to the dismay of people in Richmond, I learned how to drive like the Boston folks do. I had to in order to survive. The motto, “to each his own,” came to mind in regards to driving and dare I say many other moments I encountered in Boston.   During the winter months the car and I encountered many, many, many inches of snow.  We shoveled, swerved, drove carefully, slid once or twice, and were quite cold together on many days.  The extreme cold got the best of her I think. 🙂

We came back home after five years.  I answered an 18-month calling to be a chaplain at VCU Medical Center, about 30 minutes from where I lived.  That car got me there just about every day, to pray and be with those who were grieving.  With the car’s help, I was able to hold, dress, baptize, and bless stillborn infants for their grieving parents.  I held hands of those who would have died alone, if I hadn’t of been there to whisper God’s love into their souls. I met and befriended some wonderful nurses and respiratory therapists who ministered to those patients in ways that left me speechless.  That car allowed me to be God’s presence for those who were grasping to the least amount of comfort and hope in the midst of the pain and tears. That car’s determination allowed for me to support the medical staff in ways they had never been supported before.  Then at the end of the day, that car got me home after many shifts where I could not see in front of me from the tears in my eyes or the zone of heaviness I was in. There were times that when I arrived home, I couldn’t tell you how I got there.

IMG_7035Over the past two years, this car got me to see friends and family.  The Mazda and I drove out to see folks in Mechanicsville, Short Pump, the West End, to the city, and the Fan, as to accommodate for their families and busy schedules.  I went to church at First Baptist on Sundays and returned to the area for coffees and conversations, retreats to the VMFA, and worship with Richmond Hill.  My car got me to babysit two sweet browned eyed cuties, take photos of a blue-eyed blond, dinners at Kuba Kuba, and laugh hysterically around a table of cupcakes. I walked all around the city of Richmond, falling in love with RVA all over again and photographing every moment and mark I could.  After I finished my residency and had another Masters degree in hand, I was able to drive to the Inn at Tabbs Creek for a much needed vacation and developed a great friendship with the owners and their cat.  In January I was able to love and support a fellow chaplain in Charlottesville as we celebrated her daughter’s life, after her courageous battle with cancer came to an end.

Many of these trips and visits to see friends were mini retreats to get away when the frustration of being unemployed. The interviewing and searching took the life and spirit out of me as I keep getting rejections.  These trips gave me the chance to see people who have been by my side for two years.  It was a chance to worship and ask for God’s forgiveness and grace when I was angry and distant.  It was a chance to have monthly coffee and conversations with a spiritual colleague and friend.  But being this far away from folks took its toll on the car.  We had many visits to the mechanic, spending savings and deepening debt to keep it going.  About a month ago, the mechanic said there was nothing else that could be done.  What needed to be done was more than the car was worth and definitely more than the money I don’t have. I would be lucky if the car lasted through July (that was my hope).

There were a couple of things that I was glad to have been a part of just before my car died.   First, I got to drive it to Rockville to speak to a group of Girl Scouts about my faith.  I got to see a Flying Squirrels game with two beautiful and fun folks and I was able to have one last coffee and conversation where I learned a few lessons about life and relationships.

I was so mad yesterday when my car died.  I was coming home from an interview that was a ways away. I was apprehensive about driving my car, but I didn’t have a choice.  The interview came quickly and I needed to be there.  Coming home on 288, I could feel something going wrong and all the way home I kept saying, “Just get me home please. Just get me home.”   Well, it got me to the off ramp IMG_1092of 288 and Hull Street in the middle of rush hour.   I walked home in my black suit, wedged shoes and yes, tears in my eyes.  Please don’t lecture me about that. I already know things could have been worse. However, I was frustrated over events from the last two weeks and questions were running through my mind about what to do next and no answers with them.  I did give thanks to God for getting me  off 288 and for protecting me from being hit by cars as I crossed 8 lanes of traffic and along Hull Street.  I also thanked God that this didn’t happen before the interview.

I needed this car to last a little longer.  I tried my best to keep her limited in usage. I needed her running for some more use. Things didn’t go as planned.  Hey, when does anything really go as planned? We want everything to last longer than it does, don’t we? Our lives. Lives of those we love. Hopes. Dreams. Trust. Friendships. Relationships. Hell, love doesn’t even last. Does anything really last as long as we had hoped?  As long as we were promised?  No.  Not even cars. Sorry, I digress. I do that a lot. It’s a part of my character.

IMG_8890I woke up this morning and had these flashbacks.  I called my car “Maddie” and we did a lot together.  There were laughs, tears, deep conversations, heartbreaks, and retreats that came with our 14 years together. On long trips, I talked to Maddie. Yes I did and I know you’ve talked to your car too, so don’t laugh.  Maddie heard me sing in ways I would never want to offer to my worst enemy.  Although, I did sound just like Katy Perry and Christina Aguilera every time I was in the car.  I experienced so much about life with my Maddie and learned many lessons along the way.  Look at this photo and you can see the plates.  They read, “TRU2ME”.  I am not sure I’ve found the answer to what that plate means, but because of the many miles we’ve traveled, I’m a little closer to an answer now than I was yesterday.

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