Trading Maxi for Mini

“What’s with the rocks?”

“Do you have a few minutes? Pick a rock and I’ll tell you a story.”

Gold #4: miracles

November-December, 2005

When she died in November, 2004, our dear friend Martha, three-time kidney recipient, bequeathed to Karis her seventeen-year-old little car, dubbed Maximilian. When I took Maxi for his annual check-up, I was told he was completely rusted out and unsafe to drive. Dismayed, I took him for a second opinion. This mechanic was more emphatic. “Lady, if you value your daughter’s life, you will not even drive her home from here. There is nothing holding this chassis together.”

Maxi became an organ donor. The used car place gave us $100 for him.

Three weeks later, our scattered family would be gathering in Pittsburgh for Christmas, and we had made plans to travel two hours to a friend’s “little house in the big woods” for a special family time that we badly needed. Karis was in liver failure and the doctors counted her life expectancy in weeks, not months. There were six of us with our suitcases, plus Karis’s wheelchair and medical paraphernalia, plus a Christmas tree, food for a week . . . What were we going to do?

I consulted my husband in Brazil, and he told me exactly what we could spend for a “new” car. I started calling and visiting used car lots. The salesmen were polite, but they made it clear I would not be able to find a reliable car for the money I had. I checked Craigslist, scoured newspaper ads, prayed, and prayed some more. The days ticked away, and I still had no idea how I would pick up my children and my husband as they arrived in Pittsburgh on their various flights and how we would drive to our vacation cabin.

Finally one day I saw a “Christmas special!” ad in the paper. I called the dealer on Neville Island. Before I borrowed a car to drive out there, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t wasting time or fuel. The salesman assured me that they had three vehicles matching what I was looking for. But he wouldn’t let me pin him down on a price. “I only have this much money,” I told him. “Not any more. I sure hope you’re not trying to lure me into a scam or pressure me to spend what I don’t have. I will not buy on credit.” He assured me that I should come out, and that it would be OK.

With misgivings, I called our friend Alan, owner of the little house in the big woods, and asked him to go with me. I had zero confidence that I would be able to judge whether a car was in good mechanical shape. The salesman showed me three mini-vans, and my heart sank as I saw the prices on their windshields. Perhaps they were good deals, but they were more than double the money I had to spend. And I began to feel angry when he said, “Which one do you like?”

“You know perfectly well I can’t afford any of the three,” I yelled, holding back tears. “Why are you doing this to me?” “Ma’am,” he said quietly. “Didn’t you see in that newspaper ad the words ‘Christmas special’? You pick any one of these three, and you can have it for exactly the money you have, not one dollar more. Merry Christmas.”

I chose the green one, in honor of our daughter Valerie’s favorite color. The next day I drove Mini to the airport to pick up my husband and children. She had space for the six of us, and our luggage and food and Christmas gifts and Karis’s wheelchair and all her medical paraphernalia. And a Christmas tree. We had a marvelous, healing time together as a family in the little house in the big woods.

January 10, Karis was called for her second transplant, this time a multivisceral—five organs. The doctors told us later that without that miracle, she would have lived perhaps three weeks.

Our Christmas special mini-van served our family’s needs for the next five years.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burdens (Ps 68:19).

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