February 10, 2011

Smiling at Satan

They say things 'happen' in threes.  Who is 'they' anyway?  I haven't a clue.  I do know, however, that we passed three a long time ago.  Let's start at the very beginning, it seems a very good place to start.
*Warning - this is a long post, but I promise if you read it all and make it to the end you will laugh, maybe cry, laugh some more, and I'll give you a cookie.  Okay.  I won't really give you a cookie.  But I bet it will be worth it. :)

Car #1, Problem #1 (Early January)

- Check engine light is on, car is jerking us around like rag dolls upon acceleration.  So we take it to Autozone and they tell us it's probably (hopefully) just the spark plugs needing replacement.  No problem! We think.
So we get it home, pop the hood and where the heck are the stupid spark plugs.  No.  We aren't idiots.  Hubby has even changed spark plugs before.  But this is a compact car (I mean, the engine is so small, the battery is in the trunk people, not a joke!).  So I Google it.  Yes, I Googled, "Where are the spark plugs in a 2004 ____"  Yup.  It worked.  "Under the black plastic thing on the engine block."  Okay.  See the black plastic thing hubby? Yea, that's where they are.  Four screws off, check.  One falling into a deep crevice near the engine but not all the way through to the floor - check.  Forget, we'll worry about that later. Focus on the spark plugs.  Get the black plastic thing off - not on your life.  Feels like it's superglued down.  The hard plastic is beginning to bend he's putting so much force on it to get it off.  "Honey PLEASE don't break the car!!  AH!  I'm going inside, I can't watch!"  I Google further.  "Black plastic piece is very difficult to get off, the plugs are suctioned onto the engine block."  It's okay, you're supposed to pull hard, keep trying, I tell him.  Okay, honey.  CRACK.  Oops.  Corner of black plastic thing broke off.  Eh, no big deal, not an important part.  Good news is, now we can stick a finger under there and get leverage.  POP.  Off comes the black plastic thing.  Super!  Grab me the ratchet honey!  Oh and it looks like I'll need the extension, man these holes are deep!  Oh. Um.  It won't fit.  My socket adapter is too small.  Dangit.  Okay, tomorrow we'll ask around and see if anyone has a bigger one we can use.
Thanks to the amazing Garrett family, we secured the correct size for the sockets the next day and popped the hood again.  It fits!  YES!  BUT... it won't stay on the extension.  What the *&(%^!  It keeps falling off!  I get a grip on it and turn it but it won't lift out of the hole!  It's late, lets try again tomorrow.  So we go in and I post on FB a plea for help - any ideas how to make sure the attachment doesn't fall off?!  "Try putting a small piece of paper between the socket adapter and the extension" says the brilliant Mario. SWEET!  It works!
So four days later... the spark plugs are changed, (most of) the car is put back together (sans the little corner of the black piece lying on the floor of the garage) and we can't get the danged screw that we dropped that holds the black plastic thing on.  I tried a paint stir stick with duct tape wrapped around it.  I tried my skinny little fingers/hands reaching into the crevice.  I tried picking up the car and shaking it until the scree wriggled loose and fell.  (Okay, so maybe I didn't try that).  My amazing super hero of a husband squeezed his man-hands down in there and finally retrieved the screw and put it back on.  Viola!  It works.  The car roared to life smoothly.  YES!  Only 4 days, $50 and one hormonal-pregnancy-cry-fest later, the car is working!  Thank you JESUS!

Car #2, Problem #1 (Late January)
Picture this: Early morning frost settled in on the grass, my breath hanging in the air in front of me as I walk to my car at 7:00 in the morning headed to school.  What's that on the road by my car?  Hmph.  Probably just trash, why do people have to throw their crap on the street!?  Whatever.  With my hands full I slide into my car, set down my bag, my lunch and my purse and turn on the car.  Letting the defroster do the work that an ice scraper would have been handy for, I check my mirrors before pulling into traffic and making my way out.  Scratch that.  I check my mirror.  What the?!  Yes, I have no side mirror.  Where'd it go?!  Open the door.  Oh, that's what that 'trash' was in front of my car door laying in the road.  MY MIRROR.  Are you kidding me?!?  My eyes follow the path of the rest of the debris only to find the casing of my mirror and othe rpits and pieces of plastic scattered a good 35 feet in front of my car.  Someone side-swiped my car in the middle of the night knocking my mirror off and into smitherenes.  NICE.  Is there a note on my windshield?  Maybe I didn't notice it.  Nope.  Of course not.  That would be a common courtesy.  Who expects that these days?
So I drive around sans-side mirror (which you don't realize how much you use until you keep looking 'in' it and it's NOT there) for about a week.  Get the police report made, which is useless, she tells me, because they have no way of knowing who did it, despite the white paint transfer and broken pieces I hand her.  So I take it in to get it appraised - what's it gonna be, I ask the man?  $288.  Lovely.  Fant-frickin-tastic.  Some JERKface hits my car, knocks off my mirror and doesn't leave a note and I get to flip the bill and pay $300 to fix it so I can drive safely and not get pulled over for not having a mirror.  SUPER.  So I tell him to order the part, he says he'll call when it's in.
TWO weeks later I call them.  "Oh, it looks like the part's never been ordered.  It's in the system but never got ordered."  Lovely. "I'll get right on that and call when it's ready."  Uh-huh.  I've heard that before.
So, two weeks, $300, and a lot of nervous driving later - the car is fixed.  Thank you JESUS for that Christmas money we got that covered the cost exactly.  Merry Christmas to us.

Car#1, Problem #2 (Mid January)
Windshield wipers.  Well.  Now they are windshield decorations.  Yea.  They don't work anymore.  Estimate to get it fixed - $70 at least, that's just for the part.  Bottle of Rain-X: $4.99.  Hubby says he loves the rain-x.  "The raindrops go pew-pew-pew as soon as you hit 30!" he exclaims.  I don't like the stuff, it works for now as a temporary fix, but the wipers will need to be fixed pretty soon.  Especially since at this point my car (car #2) is still out of commission and I've been driving the other car whenever we go somewhere... mostly because it's low to the ground and I have to use the steering wheel to leverage myself out of it. :)
Car #2, Problem #2 and Car #1, Problem #3 - the climax of the story! (Early February)
Honey, my car won't start. 
Are you kidding? 
Would I be calling you at 7AM if I was kidding!?  I need to get to school!
Okay, I'll come get you, give me 25 minutes to get there.
That's right, my car, not starting. Not a click.  Not a whine.  Not even trying to turn over.  All of a sudden too!  It was parked in the garage (weather not an issue), the lights weren't left on, nothing! 
Three days later a friend comes to our rescue and jumps the car.  It starts!  Wahoo!  So we leave it plugged into a charger for 4-5 hours, unplug it before bed, head to work Tuesday morning(leaving the car in the garage, getting a ride from another dear friend to work since hubby has to leave at the butt-crack of dawn for his job), come home and give it a crank around 4:00pm.  Nothin.  Not a whine.  Not a click.  Nothin.  Mechanic friend says it could be the alternator, it could be a parasitic drain on the battery, it could be a bad battery.  So we take the battery out and put it in the back of hubby's car, intending to go to Wal-Mart (where we got it) to have them test/exchange it.  So we head to Concord's Wally World... aaaannnnddd there's no auto department at that one.  So, with no time to spare (meeting to get to at church) we decide to try again on Wednesday.  All this time I've been getting rides to/from school from a teacher friend of mine (the only one that lives anywhere near me since I live in Charlotte and work in Concord).  So Wednesday on the way home in her car, I call hubby to tell him I'm on my way home.  Only to find out he's stranded.  In Huntersville.  His car won't start.  LOVELY.  So I am trying to call anyone that I can to get dropped off at their house so I can borrow their car or get them to take me to Bill (since my car battery is in the back of his car, I would be stranded if I just went home).  I call 3 people to no avail - either no answer, or not nearyby to help.  Then one calls me back and YES she can help. Thank you Jesus!  So I get there and we take off to get hubby.  He calls and tells me a stranger tried to jump him and it didn't work.  SUPER.  And his keys are stuck in the ignition.  He can't get them out.  FANTASTIC.  At this point my friend and I are just laughing at everything.  It is SO completely and entirely obvious to us that this stuff - ALL THIS STUFF - that is happening is not just coincidence.  It's in the spiritual realm.  And we just laugh at it.  We laugh at Satan.  Because at this point, all I could do to not cry is laugh.
So we're on our way to get hubbs and my girlfriend that's been giving me rides to school all week texts and tells me she has a temp of 104* and is not going to school - but that she's praying for a miracle for us with our cars.  One. More. Thing.  I feel horrible for her but I can't help but think Satan is still trying to knock me down.  NICE TRY SATAN, I think.  I'm NOT gonna let you win.  Then we get to Bill and pick him up and find out the keys came out of the ignition - thank you Jesus!  And then our driving friend offers to take us to the other Wal-Mart (which was the original plan today) to get the battery checked and exchanged.  So we head down a few exits to south Huntersville to a Wall-Mart that we know has an auto center.  Dude hooks the battery up to a portable charger, results come back: Good Battery.  He tells us he can't exchange it, but he can hook it up to their main machine in the back which will check it again, and if it needs to be charged it will automatically charge it.  Okay. Try that.  30 minutes later he comes back and says, you were right, it's a bad battery.  Let's get that replaced.  Um. AWESOME.  BUT.  Dude, you don't have anymore of that battery.  Oh, no problem, he says, I'll go check in the back.  He comes back from 'the back' empty handed.  No. Luck.  SUPER.  He says he can call around and see who has it.  We ask him to call the far-away Concord store and they have it and will set it aside for us.  Super.  Meanwhile our driving friend has to get back home to meet with someone (by now it's 5 something at night) so we decide to buy her and her hubbs dinner, then take her home, and she said we could take her car to finish our running around and she would even give me a ride to school in the morning. (Have I mentioned we have the most amazing friends ever?)  So we head to Chick-Fil-A and I get a call from the a friend (who happens to be the same friend meeting with our driving friend in an hour) and she says her hubby is headed out of town and - if we know how to drive a stick - we can borrow his car until he gets back in town.  AW!  See Satan - My God is GREATER than any other - and that includes YOU!  So we arrange to eat dinner with driving friend and her hubby while car giving friend goes to the chiro and heads home to meet us.
Back in Charlotte, eating around the table with driving friend and her hubby, car giving friend calls.  Um.  Hubby has the keys and he's at the airport getting on the plane.... BUT he left the spare key under a trashcan in front of the airport.  Are. You. Kidding. Me.  ( I am not, I couldn't make this up).  Satan - seriously?!  Seriously?!  You're STILL trying?!?!  Haven't you gotten the hint that Our God is STRONGER than you?  That Our God is POWER and you are NOT?  Apparently not.  So car-giving friend says she's turning around to go back up to the airport to pick up the keys to his car and we will meet her in about 30 minutes.  (Time, 7ish)  Meanwhile we've been communicating with our mechanic friend to see if he can help us (once we get a car, then go to Concord to get the battery) to go back up to Huntersville and try and do something about the other car.  The plan is to pick up mechanic friend on the way from Concord to Huntersville so he can jump the car and hopefully drive it back to his house where he can work on it the next day.  Hubby has a plan for getting around from store-to-store tomorrow and all is good. 
We get the car from car-giving friend and head down to Concord to get the battery (time 8pm).  The auto department is closed.  We ask for a manager to be paged back to the auto dept.  Wait 30 minutes.  No manager.  So we grab the replacement battery and head to the front of the store to customer service.  We can't exchange this, it's saying it's a manufacturer's warranty and it won't let me do it.  Are you sure? It says, 'Return to Wall-Mart' and we have the receipt of purchase and the diagnostic report from the other Wall-Mart saying that it's a bad battery.  Can you call a manager please?  20 minutes later we have the new batter.  IN YOUR FACE Satan. 
We call our mechanic friend to be sure he's still up for a trip to Huntersville since it's now 9pm. (Concord is south of Charlotte, about 20 minutes, Huntersville is north of Charlotte, about 25 minutes, FYI)  He said he's up for it so we stop by and pick him up and head to the other car.  We hook it up to the car we have, crank it - NOTHING.  Not even a little power.  Hm.  Let's try hooking it up to the actual battery (remember, it's in the trunk in Car #1, but there's charging things in the front under the hood).  So I get back in the car where it's warm and wait.  I hear the other car crank up and start running - YAY!  It was just a loose cable!  Thank you Jesus!  (A-hem, Satan, if you haven't noticed, WE'RE WINNING.  :) 
So now it's 10pm (and hubby and I haven't been home since we left for work this morning) so he tells me to go home and go to bed, everything is fine and it's fixed.  He'll take mechanic friend home in the other car and be home right after. 

We still aren't sure if the battery is the fix to Car #2, but we'll find out tonight.
After ALL that...
Honestly, the entire time ALL of this was happening it wasn't my first reaction to ask, "Why God?!".  While I was emotional and hormonal at times (and crying at times for that matter) - I knew that it wasn't God putting us through this.  Satan was trying to knock us down. 
We're faithful givers in our church, faithful leaders in our church.  We've recently started praying more that what we used to.  We've recently been giving more than usual to church and The Father's House.  We've recently grown closer together as a couple.  We're creating a baby boy that's going to be an amazing impact on God's Kingdom.  Satan doesn't want any of that so he was trying to come between it.  There's not a doubt in my mind that all the stuff that happened was in the spiritual realm, and knowing that, knowing that it was Satan, made ALL the difference in my approach to handling things.  I could laugh it off.  I could smile.  I could have peace because I knew without a doubt that GOD had things under control.  I knew that God wouldn't leave us hangin' - He has our backs. 
It is so amazing to me to look at all the ways our family stepped up and helped. Our Friends: let us borrow tools, gave us tips on how to fix tools that wouldn't work, gave us rides, gave us mechanical advice, gave us a jump-start, prayed for us, gave us their car to use, gave us encouraging words - we have the most amazing church family ever - and that's all God.

So yes, I smile at Satan.  I smile at him because I know that My God is stronger, My God is power, My God is higher than ANY other.  So I can smile at Satan because he loses.  Every. Single. Time.