I forgot my lead vise in Minnesota! I use it to stretch lead before I use it in making stained glass panels. Without it, I can't stretch lead, at least not alone. You see, it holds one end of a length of lead while I pull on the other end with a pliers. Lead stretches a good inch or more on a six-foot length.
I've been thinking about my lead vise a bit on the long drive here to the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico. And as the days dragged on, driving between 200 and 350 miles per day with a very heavy Penske Truck, I realized that I was being stretched, too.
Really, it was a relatively easy trip in many ways. We had no accidents, no close calls, even. No one got sick or hurt, not even the two cats that were with us. The older cat, Serena, couldn't make it all day in her kennel without creating stinky laundry for me, but that wasn't so bad. Each hotel we stayed at had a laundry room, and I don't mind doing laundry.
But driving that truck, even on the easy stretches of highway, was a challenge! Going 60-65 mph in a 75 mph zone was annoying, but that was all the truck could handle most of the time. And going up hills? Yikes! Don't even think about the mountain passes we climbed at 10-20 mph, followed by irritated locals. Not to mention that the truck was built for big people, and I had trouble reaching the pedals comfortably. Thankfully, my husband drove the majority of the time!
When I wasn't driving the truck, I was, of course, driving the Subaru. It was pulling a trailer with two of my kayaks lashed tightly onto it. It also had two cats and our daughter in it (after the novelty of riding in the noisy truck wore off!). Our wee one did a fabulous job of entertaining herself, with a little help from the silly "surprises" I had purchased and wrapped in newsprint before we left. She even had a few left for the trip to Sante Fe yesterday to return the truck.
But driving the Subaru also meant leading the way... finding the restaurant that had pull-through parking for the trailer and the truck... figuring out which of the roads had the fewest hills... deciding which hotel would allow us to bring our cats in with us...
I am thankful for navigation systems and smart phones, but there were times I was ready to strangle that "lady" telling me to turn left in 200 yards! Seriously! And add to that the six-yr-old who was constantly asking if I was following the phone lady's directions correctly! I have to admit, I growled at that six-year-old a few times.
One evening, after the longest driving day (most of Nebraska) was over and we had reached Sterling, Colorado, I was looking for a particular hotel (Rumor was, they allowed cats!). A confusing sign led me to take a left turn too early, which put us back on the interstate... where there wasn't another exit for this town, and where the next town with hotels was almost an hour down the road. Ugh! Poor kitties... poor kiddie... poor Daddy driving the truck...
It took us most of 5 days to make the drive. At the end of each day, as we collapsed into hotel beds, Brad and I thanked the Lord for safe travel and asked for grace for another day. And grace we received each day.
The day we arrived, eight wonderful folks from our new congregation greeted us with lunch and help unloading. Six strong guys came by to help with the biggest pieces. All went very well! Until everyone left and our wee one went to bed and Brad and I realized that Webster, our daughter's kitty, was missing.
We had shut the cats up in the basement for the move, but sometimes the door had to be opened to put things down there. The outside doors were open all afternoon...so Webster had a straight shot outside if he escaped the basement. My husband and I looked for Webster for a loooonnnggg time after our daughter went to bed. We went to sleep knowing that the morning would bring a very sad girl. I awoke before dawn and went outside, calling and calling the cat with no luck.
When she woke up, we asked our daughter to call Webby, saying that we hadn't seen him yet. She went down the steps, calling his name, and he popped right out of his hiding place! My tears of relief brought questions from our wee one, and I told her we had thought he was gone forever... and that I knew how sad she would have been if he were gone. We stopped and thanked God for protecting our baby girl from such heartache.
It was a good stretching. We all need to be stretched sometimes; it makes us lean into the Lord harder and more often. I thank God for the easy times and the challenging ones. I thank Him for putting my heart in the right place every time I sought His help. And I ask His forgiveness for when I forgot to seek Him.