The first level of Hell may very well be a used car lot.

THIS is a glorious Saturday. I didn’t wake up until 9AM, and honestly, I can’t remember the last time I slept in like that. The last few Fridays and Saturdays AND Sundays have been a stark contrast to this lazy Saturday morning. We spent them driving ALL over creation trying to find not just one, but two used cars to replace the two that got taken out by a really large pine tree a few weeks ago. Yep. That happened.

It was a dark and stormy night. (Cue the dark and stormy background music.) 😂 Ha. Don’t all the best stories start with that sentence?

It was around 3:45 AM I think, and I woke up to a loud boom, a flash of light, and the power going out. I lay there, and in my mind, I processed all that as a transformer blowing nearby. It happens often when it storms, so I didn’t think much of it. I nearly went right back to sleep, but decided I was thirsty, so I got up and went to the kitchen to get some water. As I’m standing there, I notice April (our dog) nervously pacing in front of the dining room window and sticking her nose to the window to look out. It’s not like her to worry over a little rain or even the electricity going out. She’s never really been scared of the weather. I asked her what was wrong and went over to look out the window.

It was pitch black outside, and I couldn’t see a thing. I told her everything was fine and to go lay down. About that time I see a car coming down the street. They slow down and come to a stop just up from our house. I start wondering why they are stopping. Are they out casing houses? Looking for cars to break in to? Then something catches my attention. In the little bit of light coming from their headlights that reached the road in front of my house I see the slightest movement. What is that? Is that a branch that I see rustling in the breeze? The car begins to back up, slowly, then turns around and drives away. Again, it’s so dark I can’t see a thing. Why did they stop, and turn around? Then I get that feeling. That feeling you get when you know something is wrong. So I find a flashlight. I turn it on, and flash it out the window. I still can’t see it clearly through the window but , yes. That is definitely a tree branch I see in the road. And wait, what is that? Is there something on the car? Nope. CARS. It’s on the cars! I run to the front door, open it, step out onto the porch and start down the steps. What. in. the. world.

That’s not a branch. It’s a pine tree. And it’s huge. And it’s lying directly on top of not one, but TWO of the three cars parked in my driveway. Carefully, I walk out off my steps, and flash the flashlight around to get a better look. Debris is everywhere. It looks like a bomb went off. Pieces of tree limbs. Large chunks of my beautiful Crape Myrtle tree, and its tiny pink flowers scattered all over the yard as if they had rained down from heaven like manna. The road was blocked by the bulk of this ginormous tree, and power lines were pulled down. I go back inside and walk into our bedroom, where Jeff is still sound asleep, having slept through the whole thing.

“Jeff, get up. You need to see something.”

“What’s wrong?”

“You need to get up and come outside. That loud noise wasn’t a transformer blowing. It was a tree.”

He’s still half asleep.

“What noise?”

“Jeff. Get up. A tree fell, and it’s laying across the road and it’s laying ON TOP of our cars.”

“What?!!?”

That got him up.

We walk outside, stepping carefully through all the debris and making sure we aren’t coming into contact with the power lines. We walk around the cars, and carefully in between them to survey the damage. Good Lord. This isn’t good.

Kate’s car was first. It’s a little taller than Jeff’s so took the brunt of the impact. The frame of the car across the roof is bent in, the doors not quite lining up anymore, the lining inside falling away from the edges, exposing the side airbags, which didn’t actually deploy. I’m amazed by the fact that not a single window is broken or shattered. Every bit of glass completely intact. If y’all are looking for a car with a strong sturdy frame, I suggest y’all go buy a Jeep Commander. Thank God it was the middle of the night so no one was in it, but I thoroughly believe that we could have been sitting in that car when that tree fell directly on top of it and we would have survived. That thing was definitely damaged, but it held up like a tank.

So there we have Blessing #1: No one was hurt.

Jeff’s car was next. While it didn’t take the brunt of the impact, it still got hit hard. It’s roof also dented in, but the worst of the damage was a large branch that went through the windshield and impaled the passenger side dashboard. Glass everywhere.

Thankfully, my car was spared, only by inches. You could see where a large branch had broken off directly in front of my car. I don’t know if it was already missing, or had broken off in the fall, but had that branch still been there it most likely would have damaged the front of my car also. So for that little miracle, we were thankful. And that would be blessing #2.

I called the non emergency number and reported it, and within minutes we had police, the fire department, and city utility workers on the scene. They made quick work of clearing the road, and getting the power back on. Appreciate your public servants people. They are the real MVP’s, and I was super impressed with how quickly they responded and got things cleaned up and safe again. We will call that blessing #3.

Next I called the insurance company. They made the claims process super easy. Well, as easy as it can be when you are two cars down I guess. A few months before all this, I switched insurance companies. I was trying to lower our premiums. Jeff’s car had been paid off for a long time, so my first instinct was to just have liability coverage on his. But something told me to check the rates on keeping full coverage. To my surprise it wasn’t that much more. Still, I thought, I could just go with the liability and save that money. But for some reason I kept feeling like I should go with the full coverage. It was a 2003, probably way beyond the reasonable amount of time it should have lasted us, and although we would have loved to have something nicer for Jeff, we intended to run that thing until it wouldn’t go another mile to avoid adding another car payment. So really, liability would have been the way most people would go. But, the thought kept going through my mind that if something happened, we may not get much for it but something was better than nothing. So I went with the full coverage. Pretty sure that was God pressing me to keep the full coverage. And that was definitely blessing #4. We didn’t get much for it, but it was more than we expected, and enough to make a decent down payment on his truck.

A week later, we get the call from the insurance company that we were fully expecting. Both cars were a total loss.

Poor Kate was devastated. She put on a brave face, but I’m pretty sure she cried herself to sleep. If y’all remember, we just got her that car back in February, and she LOVED that car.

Her insta story that night: 😭

We were only allowed to keep the rentals for 3 days past the day they informed us the cars were totaled, so sharing one car with 3 people with jobs was a challenge, and we were in quite a rush to find replacements. And that is where the real stress began.

I suppose car shopping could be fun. If you had plenty of money to spend and were able to just go to your nearest car lot and pick something. But when you have very limited funds, are having to add a car payment to your budget that you didn’t plan on having, and need not one but two cars that are used but are in good shape, don’t have a bazillion miles on them, and are something that you’d actually want…. not.fun.at.all.

Your options tend to be very limited, and spread out ALL over the place.

We spent hours online, scouting web sites for cars and trucks that fit the bill. Then reading reviews for the car lots because an unfortunate majority of them had really, really, bad ones. Then we spent two full days driving to look at all the ones that made the cut. Jackson, Macon, Lagrange, Newnan, Peachtree City. Trying hard to avoid driving north of Atlanta. Hitting a dead end at every single stop. The second day, after going several places, we drove an hour and a half to Lagrange to see a certain truck. We had called to make sure they had it, was told it was on a sister lot but they would get it there by the time we arrived. We got there and they started showing us a beat up truck that we were not interested in. So we asked about the truck we had called about. It should be on the way they said. So we waited. And waited. And waited.

It’s on the way, they kept saying.

While we waited, our sales girl who was in her early twenties complained to us about how much she hated the other sales guy. Then she tells us about her arguments with her manager, and how he could be a real jerk sometimes. Then she tells us all about her family, and how her mother was in prison because she embezzled money from her employer and also stole 8 people’s identities to get money. Then she asks if we want to go ahead and give her our information so she can do a credit application while we are waiting (for a truck that still remains to be seen). Ummm , I’m gonna go with no. No I do not want to give you my info, thanks. Then we are finally told that they can probably get it there on Monday. “We can’t come on Monday. We want to buy a truck today, y’all said it was on the way here.”

The response… “ No one is on the way with it, and even if they left now our sister lot is 4 hours away in Alabama.”

Well… thank you very much for wasting our time and gas, and having us sit here for nearly two hours waiting on a truck that you knew was not coming.”

We left, feeling defeated, and completely exhausted. We were done. DONE.

We decide to get dinner before heading home, and while we are eating, Jeff sees a listing for a truck at a dealership in our town. It was a new listing that we hadn’t seen. “We’re both tired and I don’t really want to deal with another salesperson today,We can just go tomorrow” he said.

I said, “Let’s just drive through and get a quick look tonight so we know if it’s even worth going to look at tomorrow or if we just need to head to Atlanta.”

So we did. Then a salesman comes out, and we take it for a test drive. Everything looks good. Price was a little higher than we were budgeting for but it was also a newer truck than we were expecting to be able to afford and it was close enough to our budget to make it work. The salesman was super nice, and the whole deal was done within an hour and Jeff was driving that truck home. Praise Jesus, one down and one to go!

The next Friday, Jeff leaves work at lunch and we head out to look at some options for Kate. We were really hopeful about a listing in Macon, so we drove nearly an hour to see that one. The pictures online looked great. But when we saw it in person, there was literally paint peeling off of it. It was dirty and dingy and musty smelling. Someone at that dealership was really good at photoshop. What to do now? All the other options we had were north of Atlanta, and it was too late in the day to head that way. So we headed back towards home. We then went to EVERY SINGLE car lot in our home town, just to be sure we hadn’t missed something before resorting to going to Atlanta the next day. One of them I thought for sure was going to hold us hostage and never let us leave. Every time we would try he would start with, “now let me ask you this!” Ughhh. Get me out of here before I literally crawl out of my skin. Anxiety level is at an all time high at this point, and I’m about ready to make a sprint to the car for a quick getaway before I lose my mind. When we finally got back in the car, I looked at Jeff, and very seriously said, “at this point, I’d rather you shoot me in the foot than go to one more car dealership. Not even kidding. I feel pretty sure at this point that the first level of hell involves unsuccessfully trying to purchase a used car.”

Once again we headed home, Anna Kate in tears and Jeff and I feeling stressed, deflated, defeated, and just plain tired.

We had very few options left. 3 of which required driving to Atlanta, and one in Newnan. Kate had to work Saturday at 12, so we decided to get up early and go see that one when the dealership opened since it was closest. I prayed hard it would be perfect. And so did she because she wouldn’t be able to go with us to look at the others.

The next morning we go in the dealership, and the car is no where on the lot. The salesman says, I know it was here last night. Let me see where it might be. He comes back a while later and says , “So here’s the thing. The car is here, but there’s a problem.”

My heart sinks.

Oh God. Seriously? Why is there ALWAYS a problem!

“Ya see, someone accidentally left the passenger side window down some last night…and ya know it rained… soooo the car is in the garage and they have got fans on it drying out the floorboard where it got wet. We are gonna get it taken care of, and I can still show it to you if you want, but if you want to buy it you would need to leave it here for a few days and we would want to take everything out and make sure it gets completely dry so you don’t end up with any issues.”

Well. Ok then. We are here so lets just see what we’re dealing with.

We go to the garage, and honestly, I can barely feel the dampness in the floorboard. The car looks great. It’s a limited edition version of the same car she had before, with all kinds of upgrades. She liked it, so we took it for a test drive, and signed all the paperwork, and by lunchtime the second car was bought.

We had to leave it for a few days, and they did a great job of making sure there would be no moisture left behind to cause any issues. On Wednesday, Kate and Jeff picked it up, and we had 2 new to us vehicles sitting in the driveway. The car shopping was finally over. Thank you Jesus, and all the praise hands are going up over here! 🙌🏼

So that’s how our last few weeks have gone. It was rough. And to say I was stressed would be an understatement. I just kept thinking, “what are the odds. Really though, what are the odds of a tree falling across the street, and landing on top of not just one, but two of our cars?”

But after it’s all said and done, it was probably a blessing in disguise. Jeff’s car was old. It could have just gone kaput one day, and we would have had nothing to show for it. At least this way, we were able to make enough off of it to put a down payment on his truck so payments would be workable in our budget. And he has needed a truck for a long time, so maybe this was God’s way of providing something we needed.

And we had not had Kate’s car for long, but it had some miles on it, and for all we know maybe it was headed for a break down too. Or, maybe there was a reason that she wasn’t supposed to be driving it. Maybe God took her car out so she wouldn’t be in it at the wrong time, maybe he spared her from an accident. Or maybe God had nothing to do with it at all. It was just a bad thing that happened.

Whatever the reasons, they both ended up with upgraded vehicles, and though the path to getting them was pretty painful, it’s a good reminder that God always works things for our good.

What is it with me and life lesson teaching trees? One holding strong through the storm, and one being uprooted and crashing to the ground. I guess maybe the real lesson here might be that both the strong and the broken have a purpose. Sometimes we are one, sometimes the other, and sometimes, we are a little bit of both.

We may have to walk a tough road for a while to get to it, and we may not understand why something bad had to happen or why things had to change. But if we just trust Him, and keep moving forward, He always gives us something better than what we had before. And it’s ok to get frustrated when you’re walking through the bad stuff. When it seems nothing is going your way. It’s ok to feel like getting shot in the foot would be a better option than walking through whatever trial you’re in for one more second. We’re human, and life can be hard. But at the end of the day, just remind yourself that He is faithful and wants what’s best for you. And one way or another it will all work out in the end, and some Saturday morning you too will wake up like I did, thankful for a good nights rest and counting the blessings, and say, “This is a glorious Saturday morning.”

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy

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