A Lesson in Trusting God

What would you do if your whole world was turned upside-down? What would happen if all your worldly possessions were suddenly stripped away from you?

I had to find out the answers to those questions.

On the morning of June 21st, 2006, we got into our truck and started off towards California. We were moving from Montana to Southern California, about an hour north of San Diego. We had U-Haul’s largest trailer behind our truck and the back of our canopied truck also had stuff packed into it. The cab was quite full, as well. We had about $100.00 worth of “trip food” in a large cooler in between the seats. M was at the wheel, and MJ, 3 and E, 13 months, were strapped into their carseats in the back.

This was exciting, this was adventurous! We were on our way to a new life, a fresh start! M had taken a job with a home building company, and was excited to get started. First, however, we were going to do some exploring of the area. We were scheduled to arrive on Saturday, June 24th. After moving in, we’d have until July 10th, when his job started, to get settled in and to do some fun things. Maybe we could go to the San Diego Zoo. Go to the beach. Maybe even splurge and go to Sea World or Legoland! It would be tons of fun.

The first night was spent somewhere in Utah, though the name of the town escapes me now. We saved money by eating some of our own food, and laughed at how much excess we had bought for our 3-day trip. Oh well, we told each other, we’ll have plenty of food when we get there and that will be one less thing we’ll have to do. We had splurged a bit, and bought a couple big tins of nuts, (and not peanuts!) some good, healthy cereals, 5 lbs of sliced cheese and 3 1lb packages of sliced turkey breast, among other things. Someone had given us a bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans, and I was saving those for move-in.

Our second day on the road went well. We were almost there! Tomorrow would be a breeze. We’d get in early. M started getting tired, and it would be an easy day tomorrow, so we stopped in Las Vegas to see what we could find. I thought there was a good chance the hotel would be cheaper, too, since it was Vegas. Well, it wasn’t, but oh well, we were here now. After what seemed like forever, waiting in the hot truck (phew it was hot there!) M finally came back from check-in. He suggested that I wear E in the Ergo carrier (a wonderful, $92.00 baby carrier that I had recently gotten, and LOVED) and put MJ in the new umbrella stroller we had bought last week, because it was kind of a walk to get to the hotel room. So I did. When we travel, we go light, so we didn’t bring any suitcases in. Just our toiletries bag and the diaper bag. We also brought some chips and salsa, and bread, peanutbutter and jam. We thought about bringing cereal, but wouldn’t have any way to refrigerate the milk, so we left it. I really disliked the skirt I was wearing, so I threw a more comfortable one into the diaper bag.

We got up to our hotel room and settled in. We were relieved to be nearly done with our journey, and I was excited to get there and see our apartment, which we had rented, sight-unseen over the internet. Check-out time was noon, so we could sleep in and leisurely get on our way the next morning. I showered and was going to put my other skirt on, but realized that I had forgotten to get a slip, and this skirt needed one. So back into my old clothes.

About 9:30am, the next morning, we gathered our things and headed for check-out. After turning in our room keys, we went out to the parking lot. We had parked in the “oversized” lot, since we were hauling a trailer. As we got close, I started to wonder, because it seemed to me like that was where we parked, and yet, we weren’t there. After we got there, it was evident, our truck was not there. We started walking back to the hotel/casino, and I was mad. I thought that the hotel had towed it, and was telling M he should not be nice and under no circumstances should he pay to get it back! They were in the wrong. We parked legitimately. We waited in line at the front desk, and then asked to speak with a manager. After a few minutes, a woman came to the desk and M explained the situation and asked if it had been towed. He said, “Either it was towed away or someone stole it.” That was the first time it being stolen crossed my mind. The woman shook her head. It hadn’t been towed. She said she would call security. They came and M took them to the parking lot to show them where he had parked. I waited by the front desk in the casino with the children, with a million thoughts running through my head. I was incredulous. It was gone. Clean gone. Vanished. All our things? What was going to happen? Would they get it back? Was there some mistake? The enormity of it had not sunk in. After M came back, they called the police and gave us our room keys back. We went back and waited in our room. Then M left to talk the police.

When he got back, we were just both in shock. Now what? There goes our plans for the day. What are we supposed to do? I was frustrated by the lack of “doing”. There was nothing to do, so we just waited. After a couple hours with no word, M called the police and told them we were going to continue on our way and that we would call again later. We had no cell phone, so there was no way for them to reach us. He called Greyhound and got directions. We could catch a city bus from the corner across the street. We packed up our things again and headed out. We waited for at least 1/2 hour at the bus stop. It was in front of a convience store, and we needed change for the bus, so we bought something to drink. It was scorching hot. I tried to position MJ in the shade of a prickly palm bush and tried to stand so E was shaded by the telephone pole. At least we both had our sunglasses out of the truck! We had left them in on the second night, because we had arrived at the motel after the sun had gone down. Several other people were also waiting for the bus. One man offered to get something for the children to drink, and was just about to go in when the bus pulled up (it was late).

We had to go to the transit center and catch another bus to the Greyhound station. It was about a 1/2 hour ride. When we got there, I was about to buy some more liquid when out of nowhere the man who had offered before came up and gave me a couple dollars for water. He hadn’t forgotten about us. I thanked him, and gratefully bought it. We caught our next bus, which didn’t have A/C, but the drive was short. We stood in line at the Greyhound station for a long time. There was a woman in line with us who noticed M’s Christian sloganed shirt (it was something about a Reformed bible camp or something, I think) and somehow it came up about our circumstance. She went on about how the Lord would bless us and that we need to trust Him and everything happens for a reason. She was being nice, but was kind of forceful and intense, and I told M it felt like we were “religiously accosted”.

We got our bus tickets, but unfortunately, the bus didn’t leave until 1:35am. It was only about noon. We had a lot of time to kill. And we didn’t want to get a motel room if we weren’t staying overnight. Staying at the bus station would have been more than I could bear. It was crowded and dirty and had uncomfortable chairs. We started walking. A couple blocks away was a casino with some fast-food restaurants in it. One was Subway, so we went in and had some lunch. Unfortunately, for the inflated Las Vegas price, we could have had something nicer than Subway. Anyways, after eating a leisurely lunch — no hurry — we started walking. Across the street there was a domed, arched covered walkway that was about 4 blocks long. It was called Freemont Street. We walked along there, but there was no benches, so we just kept walking. After we came to the end of the covered street, we kept going. This wasn’t a very great part of town, we passed some shops that seemed kind of sleazy. I should point out that it wasn’t a terrible part of town, either. It could have been worse, but it definitely wasn’t the part they would want to display to the tourists. It was terribly hot. It was 108 degrees. After walking a bit, we found some shade by the side of a building and stayed there for awhile. There was some rocky landscaping, and we sat down there. Well, M sat on a big rock. I kind of just squatted. I had E on my back, and she was asleep, so I couldn’t really sit very well. I was thinking, ‘Who would ever have guessed, that today we would be squatting by the side of a building in some rocks, trying to stay cool in 108 degree heat, with nothing but the clothes on our backs?’ It was so absurd it was almost funny.

After what seemed like a long, uncomfortable time there, which was probably only an hour at the most, we headed back to the Greyhound station to fill up our water bottle again. Then we went back down Freemont street again. We decided to stay on Freemont so we could be shaded. We went to a drugstore there and bought some sunscreen. Then we finally did find a table and chairs and sat down and applied the sunscreen. There was an Orange Julius place, so we had a couple Triple Berry smoothies (those are good!) We sat for awhile, then walked for awhile, then sat…. There was nothing to do and a lot of time to kill. We didn’t want to stray too far from the bus station, plus, it was cooler in the shade of Freemont Street. There were signs up that said, “The Freemont Street Experience”, and I commented to M that we were getting an overdose. As evening approached, there began to be some shows on a couple stages. There was some Mexican dancers, Scandinavian dancers, even belly-dancers. We kind of watched some, but it was very loud, so we stood at the back. Anything to kill time, which was dragging on unbelievably slow. There was a movie theater there and so we looked to see what was playing. We thought about seeing Cars or The Wild, but they were so short. We finally settled on the longest movie there, even though we weren’t really interested in The DaVinci Code. At least we’d be in air conditioning and occupied for a couple hours. It started at 10:30, I think, and then we would have to hurry back to the bus station to catch our bus. After deciding on the movie, it was still hours before it started.

At one point, someone stopped us and said that our peanut butter was leaking. We had a glass jar of peanut butter in a bag on the back of the stroller, and at one point when MJ had gotten up, the stroller had tipped over backwards, from all the weight on the back. The jar had cracked and peanut butter had oozed out onto M’s shoe. I embarrassedly cleaned it up as best I could with some baby wipes. It didn’t look like peanut butter, if you know what I mean.

Towards the evening there was a group of street preachers that came out. They passed out literature and the man on the megaphone was being tormented by a belligerent guy wearing a filthy-sloganed shirt and who came back later wearing a devil mask. He was kind of good for getting attention, but he was trying to make people think that he was with the street preacher, and that the slogan on his shirt was their message. It’s funny how much it bothers people, that they would go out of their way to show so much animosity towards them. We stood for awhile watching and listening. I was hoping to get a chance to talk to one of them, but they were pretty busy. Then it was time for our movie.

The theater lobby was packed, but interestingly, we didn’t wait long at all in line to get the tickets. And, there were only about 4 other people in the room watching the movie with us. E and MJ both slept. After the movie was over, we had to walk briskly back to the Greyhound station. The children both stayed asleep the whole time, and after we boarded the bus. They must have been pretty tired! Walking onto that bus was a heart-sinking event. It was very crowded. I walked towards the back and didn’t see any open seats! Here I am, straggled and tired, with a sleeping baby in my arms. I could feel myself getting angry. Nobody was going to get up to offer me a seat? Finally, after standing in the middle of the isle uncertainly, (M had gone to check our stroller in) a couple of women moved (to where, I have no idea!) I took the window seat, and MJ had the seat next to me. M found a seat next to a guy a couple rows up.

As we started to pull out of the station, an old homeless-looking woman with a cart came out and started screaming and loosing it, because evidently she had a ticket, but the bus was full, or something. A couple employees came out to calm her down. I felt sorry for her at the same time I felt disgust.

I tried dozing off, but the quality and amount of sleep was minimal. I don’t think M was able to sleep at all. MJ kept “falling” off the chair or putting his legs into the isle. At one point the guy across the isle from me woke me up because MJ had somehow shifted to sleeping with his head on the seat and his legs on the man.

Finally, early in the morning we arrived in Riverside, where we waited in the bus station for a couple hours for our connecting bus, that would take us to Perris, the closest place that Greyhound goes to our town. After arriving in Perris, we walked over to a run-down, trashy strip-mall and used the pay phone to call a car rental place. We asked for carseats, but upon arriving, they had not brought them. So M went to take the guy back and pick up the car seats. The children and I walked to the end of the parking lot to a Jack-in-the-Box and had breakfast while we waited. Finally M came back, but with no carseats. (They were $8.00 each, per day). He said the guy told him that he could buy some in the strip mall place, where there was a “flea market” permanent store with different vendors. We went inside, and they had two toddler carseats. They weren’t the greatest, and they of course were overpriced. I couldn’t stand to pay that much for carseats that I didn’t even want, so I suggested M might be able to find a Wal-Mart in town. So I waited in the parking lot beside some trash, and M went to look. But he couldn’t find a Wal-Mart or anything else, so we went back inside and bought those carseats.

We were on our way at last! Pulling into our town we were relieved. All the towns thus far that we had stopped in on our way were very trashy, slummy places. This place was really, really nice. We found our apartment and went in to the leasing office. The girl we had been working with was appalled to hear our story. We got our lease signed and the keys and went to look at our new apartment!

I had butterflies in my stomach because we had never seen it before and I was hoping it would turn out to be good, after all this. Well, I was most pleasantly surprised. It was wonderful. Certainly the best place I had ever lived in. The kitchen was open, the rooms spacious. It was clean and pleasant. I was very relieved.

After taking a nap(!) that evening we went to Sam’s Club and got a membership. Then, before we made any major purchase, we decided to check in with the police. They said that they had recovered the truck, and that it was driveable, but that was the only information we got. We did not know if our things were still in it. We were optimistic, and at least glad to get our vehicle back. We bought a few things, and went back to our apartment. We slept on the floor that night, with nothing but two pillows and two bathtowels we had just bought, and two long, skinny handtowels that came with the apartment. It was very uncomfortable. I didn’t even have any baby blankets.

M needed over $400 to get the vehicle out of the towing yard, so he had to go to the bank before he was able to leave. It was Sunday, but the bank was open, only it didn’t open until noon. We went to get cell phones, so we’d be able to stay in touch with each other. Then M went to the bank, and then drove the rental car back to Perris and took a Greyhound back to Las Vegas. I spent a lonely day at home with nothing to do, and nothing for the children to play with. We had the two cardboard boxes that their carseats had come in, and a couple pillows. There was no playground in the vicinity, so they were rather bored. (As was I.) I talked to M a few times throughout the day, and he said he would call when he picked up the truck and tell me how things looked. That night, about 1am, M finally called. He said that everything was gone. My heart sunk. I kept sort of expecting him to say, “Just kidding”. But of course, I knew it was true. It took me a long time to get back to sleep after that. The towing place had started the truck for him with a screwdriver, and suggested that he leave it running because it took over an hour to figure that out. So he wasn’t able to stop overnight at a motel somewhere. So he spent his second sleepless night in three days. He arrived home the next morning, and when I went out to help him carry in a few things that were left, I was struck by the senseless, selfish nature of the crime. Our things had been so desecrated, so rifled through, and papers and trash was left in it’s place. I found a few little things that up until now had been treasured dearly by me, broken and thrown aside with no care. That was when I finally started to break a little.

We were left with about 15 boxes of unopened theological books from M’s huge library. About 1/3 of what we had had was left. Other than that, it was all trash, and important documents that had been strewn about. MJ, E and I each had one of our sandals left. My bible, (Praise the Lord!) was left behind, including the keepsakes and photos that had been in it’s pages. A parting gift from my sister, a handmade apron, was spared. We did get our photo album, but it was filled with old photos from before M and I were married. All the recent pictures were on our computer. There were so many things, and so many memories that are lost forever.

Well, I will try to wrap this up, since it’s such a long story. We have been taking this a day at a time. We found a wonderful Reformed church here and that has made things easier. A lot of people have prayed for us. And several people (including a bunch of people at M’s work) have come forward with money, giftcards and household items.

God is so faithful. He has not let us go hungry. Even when we had nothing but the clothes on our backs, it was enough. There is a lot less you actually need when it comes down to it. Sure, a lot of things you want or they would make your life easier. But true necessity, there is not much. We got the bare necessities in fairly short order, now we are just waiting to replace our luxuries. The lesson God has taught us through this is to TRUST in HIM. He has never failed us. Riches are here one minute and gone the next. We are not taking any of them with us when we die. It has emphasized the need to lay up our treasures in heaven, where “thieves do not break in and steal”. We need to remember what is truly important in this life. I would not say we were more worldly than most, or that we necessarily viewed our worldly possessions in an unhealthy light. But I hope and pray that this experience we went through may be profitable for others and that the lessons which we learned in such a hard way, will be taken to heart by others who hear about this.

Above all, I want to stress that the Lord is good! He has held us in the palm of His hand throughout this ordeal. He has provided our needs, (and yes, even some luxuries!) and has drawn us nearer to Him. I can truly say that I “know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Sarah said,

    WOW! I am so sorry you have been through such a tough time!

    I’ll be praying for you and your family.

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