Here lately, Candice and I have been singing lines from "Ironic"--the Alanis Morissette song that was popular when we were in grad school. We've had two waves of inspiration for singing this song:
We're trying to sell our house. A family we know has been working with the same realtor we have told us at church that they held an open house alongside a garage sale and it generated activity on their house. A few days later, their house sold.
We called our agent the next day and asked if we could add an open house alongside the garage sale we had planned. She agreed to arrange an open house for 9-to-noon on Saturday. For the first time ever, we decided to have a two-day garage sale, starting on Friday. The traffic on Friday was brisk--people were waiting curb-side when we opened our doors at 7:30 AM. That traffic motivated our kids to set up a coffee and lemonade stand on Saturday (with some help from our entrepreneurial neighbor).
Early Saturday morning, we set up for day-two of our garage sale and worked hard to stage everything for our open house. We opened the garage door with gusto, ready to get to work. But no one came. We waited for more than an hour--an eternity in garage sale time. Eventually a trickle of people came through, but hardly any wanted lemonade or coffee--and no one showed for the open house.
At noon, we moved everything back into the garage and closed the door. We apologized to the guy who was manning the open house and went inside to get lunch and put our little guys to bed. In the process, Candice noticed there was a message on our voice mail. Someone wanted to see our house in 30 minutes. We scrambled to make a lunch to-go and spent an hour at the park.
We were a two-car family for a long time, but we sold our Jeep on Craigslist a few weeks ago as part of our "clear the decks" mission. We're now down to our minivan. Because we plan to travel cross-country soon, we asked a mechanic we've been working with for years to give the van a tune up. (Ironically, he was working on the van when we got a call requesting a showing on our house. We ended up borrowing car seats from our neighbors to put into the mechanic's 1980-something conversion van and drove off ruffled and unshowered so that we could get everyone out of the house).
Our mechanic did the tune up and made a couple of minor replacements. "If you haven't changed your timing belt, I would have that done," he added. We thought he'd already done that so we looked through our paperwork in the glove box. We couldn't find anything and his records weren't turning up anything.
We made an appointment to have the timing belt replaced and prepared to come up with the $600 or so it would cost. Then we made a more intensive search through our paperwork to see if we could find a record of the work being done. We looked through binders of paperwork for each of the past ten years. We couldn't find a couple of those years but reviewed enough to assume the work just hadn't been done.
Yesterday morning I drove the van to the repair shop to get the work started. Around mid-morning, I felt motivated to start cleaning out our storage room. It was there, in the midst of old photos and memorabilia. Piled in a Whole Foods bag with some stray papers was a binder for the year 2007. A few papers in, I found an invoice from our mechanic, along with a record of our timing belt being replaced December 6, 2007.
I called the guy who was replacing our timing belt, but got his voice mail. I left a message asking him to stop the work. He called back later to say he would stop but that he was already a third of the way into the complicated repair and that we'd have to pay for the work he's already done. He ended up giving us something of a break, but we still had to pay $180 with nothing to show for it.
These ironies hurt a little more when we're already feeling vulnerable in a time of transition. And yet we trust God's goodness and provision. Something tells us we're going to look back on these challenges some day and laugh at how this transition chapter unfolded.