James had a week off of school and so we decided to take a trip to Utah to see family for a few days. The engine in our car was recently rebuilt and Paul decided that it would be a good thing to break it in. We left on Tuesday night and stayed at a hotel in Reno, woke up and made the rest of the trip. We had a great time in Utah. We did lots of fun things, ate lots of delicious food, and enjoyed being with family. Then it was time to go home. Things were going well and we were making pretty good time. Our GPS predicted that we would be home by 6:30 pm, which was great because we had school and work the next day. IMG_7912

And then somewhere out there on the I-80 before Winnemucca,Nevada, our car informed us that we needed to service our stabilitrak and that the engine would be powering down. And so Paul pulled us over to the side of the road and turned the car off. It restarted and we were able to make it to Winnemucca, but somewhere after that, it shut down again.  I texted family members for prayers and to see what we could find out about what was going on with the car. We came to the conclusion that we would just have to push the car as far as we possibly could. This would mean a total of 35 shut downs, and a reduced speed of 55 mph. There was a good 4 hour period where our GPS predicted that we were 4 hours away from home. IMG_7918 (2)

While we were passing through the Donner Pass our situation suddenly
took a turn from bad to worse. Darkness was falling and suddenly we found ourselves on a two-lane highway with sporadic emergency lanes and more semi trucks than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. The car was shutting down more frequently and there was little warning before it would shut the engine down. I can count on two fingers how many panic attacks I’ve had in my life, and one of them was on that stretch of the I-80. I’ve never been so afraid. I found myself bargaining with God that if someone had to die, it would be me and not my sweet children in the back seat. 

We were about an hour or so away from home when the 20 minutes stretches of driving turned into 5 minutes and from 5 minutes the car decided that it had given us all that it had to give and would start to shut down immediately upon restart. Luckily we were back to civilization and in a town that had a Holiday Inn Express and a Chevy dealership, AND, both were within a mile of where we were broken down. It took us awhile to get there with the engine turning off as soon as it started, but we finally rolled into the hotel parking lot at 11:30pm. Sleep never felt so good.

Turns out, all of our problems were created by a $100 air valve to the engine and we had the car back the very next day. We’ve been home for a week and half now, and all the while I’ve been thinking of what I have to be grateful for and trying to find the Joy in that experience. Afterall, I’ve made this goal to choose joy every day. Even the days that kinda suck.


Finding gratitude was easy. I’m grateful that my kids are ok. I’m grateful that the fix to the car wasn’t too expensive. I’m grateful for our safety throughout it all and that our car was able to make it as far as it did (can you imagine the price tag of a 5 hour tow?). Finding joy required a little more digging, but as usual, it comes down to my children.

Happy to be out of the car!

These kids did not complain, whine, cry, or squabble for 16 hours of being strapped in their car seats. No one had a bathroom emergency or accident. They napped the day away, offered earnest prayers, and had a calm presence about them through the entire ordeal. Their smiles, giggles, and faith brought me joy on a dismal day.

And, if I’m being honest, I also found joy for $2.00 in the hotel coke machine that night.

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