Aah…there’s nothing like coming home after a two week vacation. Vacations are wonderful, especially while visiting family when returning to one’s original stomping grounds, but there’s something to be said for a comfortable routine at home as well. My lovely wife and I had just gotten back to Arizona, from our trip to Iowa, when I found myself saying aloud in a somewhat sarcastic manner, “Just enjoying the journey.” Well, first I said, “What the?” Our car which had been sitting in the parking lot of Sky Harbor International Airport, while the missus and I were off gallivanting, was dead as a doornail. We were stranded for only a short time because we quickly learned the airport offers free (minus a tip) jump-starts, but it was enough time for me to remember I had said the same thing only a few days earlier. However, at the time when I said, “just enjoying the journey” while back in Iowa, I genuinely meant it.
I have always wanted to try my hand at kayaking and was pleased to find out my big sis had arranged, for those family members willing to endure one of my “bucket list” items, a two-hour kayaking excursion at Rock Creek State Park. It was a beautiful day to be at one with the lake. And I was literally at one with the lake. As I was backing my kayak away from the harbor, I was violently thrown out of the watercraft. Oh yea, and I don’t know how to swim. No worries though. My kayak was not one of those confining cockpit types (I made sure before getting in), I was donning a lifejacket (I’m no dummy…and wearing one was mandatory), and the water was only chest deep at this point. I was the only one in our group to taste the unfiltered water of Rock Creek.
Knee deep in sludge, and drenched with not so crystal clear lake water, I trudged the few yards back to the shore. The park’s employees swiftly met me there with looks of great concern on their faces although assuredly they were laughing hysterically on the inside. Come to find out, I had been given faulty equipment – my theory, but certainly backed up by common sense. A vast amount of water had been left within the watercraft’s shell which made the weight distribution of the kayak extremely unbalanced when I initially attempted to go forward. About ten minutes later, after the staff drained the intrusive liquid from the kayak, I began the launching process all over again. This time everything went smoothly, and I believe during the next two hours I proved to everyone that I could probably be a kayak Olympian. My wife felt so bad for what had happened, even possibly shedding a few tears, but I truly wouldn’t have changed a thing that day. It was an experience not everyone will have, and for me an integral part of enjoying the journey.
Driving home from Sky Harbor I was hoping our car’s battery would recharge itself during the lengthy jaunt. No such luck, so I scheduled an appointment for the ailing Hyundai Elantra at our local Brakes Plus. The following day, after taking the missus to work, I tried jump-starting the car for no less than 35 minutes, but to no avail. I was now angry, sweating profusely, and swearing up a storm. I felt totally defeated and shared with God how ridiculous I thought the whole situation was. I questioned how this could possibly be any part of His plan, and I pleaded with my Savior to help me out. I then apologized for my unsavory tongue and cautioned God I was only going to turn the key one more time before giving up. (He knew I was fibbing a bit.) After the second try, I finally heard the sweet sound of a purring engine. I thanked God! I then phoned Brakes Plus to inform them of my obvious tardiness – my appointment was scheduled for 9:00 am, and it was already 9:10 am.
I was relieved when I was told by the representative to bring the car in anyway. But wait. As I was backing out of the driveway, I became utterly dumbfounded when realizing the Hyundai’s power steering was barely functional. And there were at least four warning symbols now illuminating from the dashboard. I’ve never seen that before. God surely does have a sense of humor. There was no turning back. I silently prayed, and held my breath, as I drove approximately 3 miles to the auto repair shop. (Spoiler alert: The car’s alternator was bad and needed replaced, as well as the battery.)
My original plan had been to relax at a nearby Starbucks while the Elantra was being serviced, but now I was saturated with sweat and just wanted to get home. The gal behind the counter offered me a ride, but I declined. I already had it in my head that I’d be walking home, and I also don’t like to be a burden to anyone. It’s hereditary I suppose. My one grandpa could be quite stubborn at times, and my other grandpa did not like to ask anyone for help. I’m a descendant of both, so I’m screwed. I slung my backpack, almost filled to capacity, over my shoulder and headed out the door. I planned on entertaining myself at the coffee shop with the contents inside my backpack: my Bible, crossword puzzle books, an AARP magazine, my Fantasy Football notes, and most vital – my reading glasses, but now they’d all be accompanying me on this surprising long haul.
I had only taken a few strides when I spotted the large metal cross on the grounds of the Circle of Peace Church. Even though I’ve never been inside that church, one can’t help but notice the iconic symbol when driving by. I’ve seen that rusted cross hundreds of times before, from the well traveled thoroughfare, but this time was very different. I was close to it. I was drawn to it. I was prompted to take a pause. I sat down on one of the six wooden benches at the foot of the cross, and I prayed. I thanked my Heavenly Father for being there with me when I was feeling alone, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I offered Him my gratitude for the many blessings He has bestowed upon me including my family and the finances to be able to afford whatever would be determined to be wrong with our car.
I told God I knew this inconvenience was a Lower Story event, and I wasn’t sure what I could learn from it, but whatever the reason I hoped ultimately it would bring glory to Him. I have always sort of wondered why the Circle of Peace Church stationed benches near their outdoor cross. This is the desert, and the area’s not shaded after all. I had never seen anybody take advantage of their set up the entire time I’ve lived in the city. I’ve even questioned at times whether or not the outdoor arrangement made any sense at all. Now I have my answer. I left that old rusty cross with a new attitude.
I was about halfway home when I became painfully aware that I wasn’t wearing the most comfortable footwear for a trek through the desert. But, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ….” With several more blocks to go, I could no longer tolerate my uncomfortable shoes. I immediately noticed I was, of course, wearing a virgin pair of socks. I’d much rather have dirty socks than blackened feet, so I finished the three-mile hike sock footed. I even showed a bit of moxie, by walking an extra half a block to retrieve the day’s mail, before finally reaching my destination.
I had persevered. I celebrated with a rinse in the swimming pool and a much needed drink. (Fruit Punch Gatorade never tasted so good!) My unexpected hike had given me a new perspective, a renewed appreciation – and a couple of mega blisters on the heels of my feet. Sadly, the very next day I broke my favorite coffee mug, and the garbage disposal stopped working. But the unforeseen circumstances and little inconveniences in life are what make the good times seem even that much sweeter. Things don’t always go my way, but at least I’m enjoying the journey.