Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mercy Mission

So it's just "one of those days" again. It seems to be a required thing, to have a bad day once in a while--or what optimists like to refer to as a "growing day". Call it what you will; it's been a difficult day. But, I did get to Confession. That was my mission for today. And I'm happy to say that that mission has been accomplished. My mission to find mercy for my soul.

I had been trying to get to Confession for a few weeks now. I had some things that I wanted to talk to a priest about and didn't want to receive Communion (to be on the safe and non-sacrilegious side) until I did. But every time I set out to get to Confession, my mission failed.

My old parish has Confessions on Thursday evenings, which usually works for me. (Dennis works the weekend shift, so it's difficult to drag five children to confession on Saturday afternoons to stand quietly in a line for 30+ minutes.) But then I had our dog training class on Thursdays which pretty much trumped that plan. While I wondered how I could get to Confession some other day, it turned out that the dog training class was a bust. (Long story.) So that at least freed up Thursday evenings again, thus making it possible to get to Confession. Not so fast! There's always the flu, right? Yep, I got the flu--just for that day. But, I pulled myself out of bed anyway and drove the 20 minute drive to church for Confession--just to find out that for whatever reason, they weren't having Confession that day.  So I did what any growing Catholic would do: I looked up to the heavens and said, "Lord, You want me to go to Confession...right???"  Sometimes, it's hard to tell.

So last night I remembered that a parish near my mom's house has Reconciliation on Saturday mornings from 9-10. I called her up and asked if I could drop off the kids at her house so I can get to Confession. She said yes, and it looked like my plan was going to work!

But then I decided to bring the dog. I didn't want him to spend the entire morning cooped up in his kennel because otherwise, he is hyper for the rest of the day. So we drove the 40 minute drive to my mom's house, dropped off five and kids a dog. My mom earned some saint points for that day.

Amazingly, Confession went very smoothly! I was only the third person in line and the line went quickly. I was in and out of that church--fresh and clean--about only 10 minutes later. I thought to myself that with such a smooth morning that now all I had to do was get home.

No! Wrong! It's never that easy! And I swear, when you do something to advance in your faith, the devil is right back there ready to trip you up all over again!

On the way back to pick up the kids, I decided to call Dennis. I usually call to say good morning when he's at work and he's used to it. While I was on the phone with him, the car "dinged" an warning alarm. Dennis asked what that alarm was about and I told him that it said that the oil pressure was at zero. It had done this last week which I told him about, but he either didn't hear me or didn't think it was anything serious because he never said anything about it. But now that he heard the alarm over the phone, he got very stressed and pretty much ordered me to get to a car place to get the oil changed before I blew up the engine.

I told him that I had five kids and a dog with was I supposed to get the oil changed on a busy Saturday morning? And how where was I supposed to wait since they weren't going to let us wait in the waiting room with a dog??

From there came a very tense discussion about car engine blowing up vs wife losing it. We finally came to a compromise that I would stop to get Dennis's card to pick up oil and then he would refill it at his work and we would get an oil change later.

So I got to my mom's and picked up the kids and the dog. I was running low on gas but had nothing on my debit card so I stopped at the bank to get out a $20 for both gas and a coffee at Caribou. We ran over to Caribou and waited in line for a good ten minutes....the person ahead of me had their order wrong and I watched them pass the coffee back and forth. Finally it was our turn, but now I was running late and was wishing I never stopped to get the coffee. But soon we were off to get gas at the gas station.

But at the gas station too, I ran into problems. I pumped the gas which left me with $12 in change. I was still hungry since I hadn't had breakfast and that small coffee did nothing, so I was looking forward to getting some food on the way home. I went in to pay, noticing a very long line at the carwash station. There was no cashier on duty and me and another lady waited rather impatiently. A woman came rushing in to grab something and then told us she would be right back and ran back out. Again we waited. I was thinking to myself this was a very trusting gas station and I'm pretty sure the lady ahead of me was thinking the same thing.

Finally, the lady came back, saying that someone was locked inside the car wash and she had to get them out. I finally was able to pay, but now I was really behind in time and I knew the kids would be complaining if I didn't get home soon.

I had just gotten back in the car when Dennis called, wondering where I was. I should have been at his work by that time and it was a 20 minute drive. I explained what happened and told him I would be there in about 20 minutes. I was now an hour behind schedule.

In the meantime, the dog was very restless in the car. He was all keyed up from his visit at my mom's and wouldn't stop pacing in the car. The kids were getting restless too, and starting to whine about feeling carsick.

Finally, we got to Dennis's work and he gave me his card to go pick up oil. He told me to get Valvoline oil at a certain shop, and how many quarts to pick up and what kind. Ok, anyone that knows me, knows that my memory is pretty much shot and can remember nothing more than two things at a time. But I didn't say anything to Dennis and drove off to find the shop. (Max stayed behind to go to the bathroom, waiting for me to come back to pick him up.)

The only thing I could remember was "Valvoline" and ironically, there was a car shop called "Valvoline." So, thinking this was the shop I was supposed to go, I drove in the super tiny parking lot, only to find out that it was the wrong shop. They didn't even sell oil, they only changed oil. I sure didn't want that, as I would be stuck in the situation I had been trying avoid all along. So I got back in the van, only to realize that the parking lot was so tiny, I couldn't get out. There was a garbage dumpster that had been moved so close to the car that I couldn't back out. The kids fussed, the dog whimpered and I tried to keep my cool as I edged my way out of the parking lot.

By the time I found the right shop, another 20 minutes had passed by and I was sure Max and Dennis were wondering where I was. I went in the shop, and completely blanked on the type of oil I was told to get. "Valvoline!" I blurted out to the guy who looked like he dealt with way too many women customers that day. "Two quarts." That was all I could remember.

"What kind?" he asked in his bored voice.

What kind? I tried to remember but came up with nothing. "All I know is it ends with 30." I said, thinking that would help.

"5-W30 or 10W-30?" he asked.

"Does it matter?" I asked helplessly. "It's oil!"

He helped me pick one out according to make and model of the car and I went up to pay, handing him Dennis's card. He looked at the card and the backside of it. "All it says here is 'void'". He said, handing it back to me. "I can't use this."

I looked at the card, and sure enough, it said "void."

"My husband's signature must've worn off." I said. "Do you want me to call him to authorize using his card?"

"I need to see him in person along with his ID." The stubborn man said. That's right. I called him stubborn, because he was!

What a morning! I thought to myself. I just want to go home! I walked out of the store, putting the oil aside telling the man to not move it--I would be back--and went back to the car to call Dennis. I was halfway to his work when he finally answered and told me that instead, that he would meet me. So, full of frustration, I drove back to the oil shop to "wait".

By this time, some of the kids were crying because they were so hungry. Joey was looking at me with a look that said "What's going on??" and I felt ready to lose my cool altogether. All I could think of was that I should have never let Dennis know about the car being low on oil. We would have been home by now.

Luckily we didn't' have to wait too long since Dennis's work was nearby. He went in to pay and came out to pop the hood and fill the van with the much needed oil. To calm the kids down, I told them that maybe Daddy would let me use his card to get them McDonalds since it was past their lunchtime. Dennis gave his card, but we couldn't find a pen in the card for him to resign it. Luke very graciously found a crayon for him to use--which was yellow--and Dennis used it. Now it looked like we had both a vandalized and illegal card.

"What if they won't let me use your card because of the signature?" I asked Dennis.

"It's McDonalds." He said, as though that should clarify everything.

So we went for our last stop--McDonalds--and I ordered food for the kids. I didn't order anything for myself, thinking I would use my own money to get something later. When I went up to pay, I began to say tiny prayers that the 15 year old boy would not say anything about the card with the yellow crayon "signature". He ran it through, flipped over and back again, and I sighed with relief. He didn't seem to notice or care about the weird signature, and perhaps, I could feed my kids and just get home. But then he stood there, and waited and waited. Finally, he gave back the card and said, "For some reason, the machine declined your card."

I slapped my hands into my face and made some sort of yell/groan. When I looked back, the scared looking 15 year old boy had his hands up in self-defense like I was going to smack him.

"It's ok," I said as calmly as I could, "I've got cash."

And to my amazement, I had exactly the same amount of cash--$12.00--that was needed.

It took all my money and left me with nothing, but it was enough to feed my kids. I passed out the food to the kids and drove home, thinking to myself that I really wasn't that hungry anyway.

What a day! I thought to myself. So many tests. So many problems! And yet, I had accomplished what I set out to do--go to Confession--which was oddly, the only smooth part of the day. The rest was nothing but tests of patience.

Though I had felt impatient with Dennis at his insistence that we oil in the car before I drove it home, he was right--the car had been sticky dry with no oil in it. His unusual stubbornness about the situation could have saved us from being stranded on the side of the road. And a broken car.

And though I ran into problem after problem, God had provided me with everything: oil for the car, food for the kids, with just enough money to get us through it. With food in their belly, the kids cheered up, the dog calmed down (and had a very long pee when we got home, which is why he was so agitated I guess) and I sent the kids downstairs so I could take a nap while the dog stretched out for a nap of his own in the sunshine.

All for a clean soul. And yes, it was worth it. But it does make me wonder if it will always be this get to Confession.

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