Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our Thankgiving Surprise, part 2 - Tender Mercies

For the past two or three months, Jeff and I had discussed taking the kids to Gettysburg for Thanksgiving. That was our tentative plan until one morning (probably within a week of my stupor of thought experience), I got the wild idea to drive to Idaho and Utah and surprise Savannah and our families instead. In our twenty years of marriage, we'd never celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. My parents and all six of my siblings and their families were going to be together at my brother's house this year. Wouldn't it be great to be there, too? The idea spiraled until it became a real possibility and I couldn't stop thinking about it. We decided we'd try to make it work.

Over the next couple of weeks, we watched the weather really close and even canceled our trip at one point when it looked like conditions would be severe. But within a day or two it didn't look so bad so it was back on. Because the kids would be missing two days of school, we told them we were traveling, but we didn't tell them where we were going until the night before we left for fear the weather would force us to cancel. Only a few of my siblings knew we were coming, enough that we wouldn't be an unexpected burden on anyone.

If I had to find a theme for our trip, I'd have to say tender mercies. We experienced them regularly throughout our journey and each time, it was confirmed to me that our trip was important to Heavenly Father, too, because He paved the way for us. Take the van, for example...
  • The day before we left, Jeff said he'd feel better if we rented a minivan rather than drive over 3,500 miles in our rear-wheel drive, 296K mile van in uncertain weather conditions. Fair enough. With nothing available locally, I reserved a van 2 hours away that we could pick up on our way. Yay! All packed up and ready to go, we arrived to pick up our rental van only to be informed that they had no vehicle for us. Yes, we clearly had a reservation, but they had no available minivans or anything else that would work for us. Whoever we spoke with on the phone shouldn't have booked it, etc., and there was nothing they could do. Well. Suddenly our options were 1) take our van or 2) go home. We took our van.

    This cloud pattern covered the entire sky for a long stretch through western Illinois.
  • Where is the tender mercy in that? Well, for one, we had to pick up the van before 4PM so it got us out of our house by two. I'm sure we would have left much later if we hadn't had that deadline so it got us on the road. Plus, we had much more room throughout the drive in our 12-passenger van than we would have had in a minivan.
    We get so excited when we finally start seeing mountains as we drive through
    Wyoming and Idaho.
    We made it to Jeff's parents home exactly 24-hours after leaving home, our quickest Idaho drive to date. The van ran well throughout our vacation and, with low fuel prices, we spent significantly less on gas than we typically do during our westward treks, despite averaging 12 mpg. 
Filling up the van for under $50!  I remember summers where the pump
would automatically shut off at $100 whether we were full or not. 
  • On a related side note, the van's A/C broke last summer. With a $1700 repair estimate, we decided not to fix it. Jeff's goal was to get the van to 300,000 miles and then we could start looking for a new vehicle. :) We reached that milestone on our return trip at 3:23AM on November 28 when we were less than three hours from home. I know it doesn't sound significant, but it meant a lot to us!
Our trusty 1995 Ford Econoline E-350 Club Wagon. 

Then there was traveling in general --
  • I felt like Heavenly Father made sure we were where we needed to be each day. For example, we had originally planned to spend two or three days in Idaho before driving to Utah. But a big storm was forecast that would have made that leg of the trip pretty slippery. So after a fun and family-filled 24-hours, we headed to Utah.
    A beautiful sunset on our drive to Utah.
    As a result, we had two extra days with Savannah which was a highlight for us all! The expected storm ended up being delayed so we could have stayed longer in Idaho, but we wouldn't trade the extra time with Savannah for anything!
  • Even in Utah, we had planned to hang out in Provo on Wednesday and maybe even take in the BYU Basketball game. But again, a big storm was expected to dump 6-12" of snow in the valley that afternoon and evening. So we left Provo/Orem after lunch and spent the afternoon with my older sister and youngest brother and their families. Other than a very light dusting of snow, that storm never came, but it got us where we needed to be. We enjoyed catching up with family and spending that more personal time with them than we were able to get at the big family gathering the next day. You might remember my newest nephew, Bowen, who weighed only 3 lbs. 14 oz. when he was born on August 1. It was so fun to finally meet him. He's perfectly healthy and such a sweet, happy baby! He still looks like a newborn, weighing in at only 10 lbs., so it was fun to get my baby fix and snuggle with this sweet little guy. 
Bowen - 4 months old, 10 lbs.
  • I can't talk about tender mercies without mentioning our drive home.
    The beginnings of a sunrise in Utah

    We were watching the weather really closely and were a little worried about snow in the mountains of Wyoming and a large band of ice right where we would be leaving Nebraska and heading into Missouri. We took the necessary precautions and left first thing Friday morning so we'd have as much daylight as possible while driving through the mountains. But once again, the roads were clear. There were a few isolated spots where the left lane was slick but the right lane was fine.
    We could see in Wyoming where there must have been whiteout conditions at some point before we arrived, but all that was left was a beautiful white wonderland. The drive was beautiful and we traveled without incident. In Missouri, there was a short stretch of road where we saw ice on the shoulder, but the roads were dry. It drizzled lightly as we headed into Illinois, but by then the temperature was 40ยบ or better so there was no fear of ice. We arrived home just 22.5 hours after leaving Utah. 
I just had the overwhelming feeling throughout our trip that we were being gently guided to where we needed to be. Despite the varied weather forecasts, we felt good about going and I can see that Heavenly Father made it possible and even easy for us to make the trip!

(To be continued...)


Kristin and Jay said...

tender mercies are the having a violin delivered to your door.... so fun to hear about your tender mercies!

Karey said...

I'm working on a post about a couple of tender mercies. Unfortunately they came in the midst of a pretty awful experience (the kind of awful that makes you cringe/laugh/cry). So glad you had a nice Thanksgiving. I'm sure Savannah was thrilled.

Lori said...

So glad you got to make your trip and how it all worked out! For sure Heavenly Father watches over each of us. Glad you really felt that.