Amanda Barber

Stories, songs, and thoughts on life.

I am currently accepting voice, piano, and violin students. Learn more or

Speechifying and Busted Head Gaskets

23 January 2014

“Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7

My head has not quite stopped spinning since Friday afternoon. Sometimes there are weeks where three weeks-worth of trouble get packed into three days. But, some level of sanity has returned. The laundry is washed. (Though not quite folded.) I have transportation now, there is soup cooking on the stove and I have approximately two hours before I have to head into another snow storm that seems to have engulfed the area to go teach seven or eight music lessons.

As mentioned before, it all started on Friday afternoon. In last week’s post, I mentioned that I had about four events lined up for Friday and Saturday. So, Friday morning, I packed up the car and drove over an hour to my first stop in the Battle Creek area. I was to talk about my book to a Homeschool Partnership class and then show The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club. It was a good time with a small but sweet group of friendly teens and younger children. At the end of the movie, all the girls were in tears and couldn’t say enough good about it. After my session, I peeked into the gymnasium on site to watch a folk dancing class in progress. Next thing I knew, I was right there in the middle of it and before the hour was through, I had learned the Virginia Reel and several other very old folk dances. It was tremendous fun, not to mention tremendous exercise. I was thoroughly out of breath and sore at the end, but it was worth the effort.

I got back in the car and headed to Kalamazoo around one-thirty. I had plenty of time to get to the recording studio by five o’clock…or so I thought. I had one errand to run and a bit of time to kill before my appointment. Heading towards West Main around two o’clock, my car began to throw a tantrum. Klunk, bump, klunk, bump. That’s kind of what it sounded like. That, and there was all this smoke. After five to ten minutes of the noise and smoke increasing, I finally found a place to pull over. I checked the oil and it was somewhat low, so I put in some more oil. I hopped back in the car and turned it on again in the hopes that the oil might fix it. It didn’t. Actually, it sounded even worse, and the car was putting out enough smoke to form my own ready-made cloud. I put in a call to a mechanic I knew in Kalamazoo and he advised me not to drive the car and get a tow. I could feel my heart sinking to my feet and the dollars flying out of my bank account as I put in another call to Geico to get my car towed. And of course, there were the problems of getting to the recording studio in time, getting to my aunt’s house in the evening to spend the night, getting to my first speaking engagement Saturday morning, getting to my library appearance that afternoon, getting back home to St. Joseph, getting to all my students on Monday and an orchestra rehearsal in the evening, and getting a different car. I had a really, really bad feeling about the car. I’d had trouble with it before but this pretty much felt like the end of the road. And I didn’t handle it all very well. I was mad, frustrated, worried and greatly crunched for time. Added to all the keen personal disappointments which I have felt this past year and a half (none of which my readers know about), I really wanted to throw up my hands, find a small hole, bury myself in it and just forget everything.

Amid the flurry of phone calls and arrangements I had to make in that small time period, the thing that kept coming to my mind was the message of the book I had spent ten years of my life writing and promoting. Namely, that God is love, that He is in control of everything, that everything that happens, good or bad, is a gift from God for my good. I have come to the conclusion that I end up writing these things to remind myself that they’re true, because I, of all people, have a hard time believing them. I, of all people, struggle with faithlessness, bitterness and cynicism. I know why trouble happens. I know why I have to suffer. I know that God uses it to purify me. But no matter that there is a philosophical, theological, experiential explanation for why trouble happens, it still feels like fire and brimstone when it does. God never promises the Christian immunity to pain. And every time I feel the pain of the trouble He sends my way, I face the age-old choice. I can scream and kick and fight against it, or humbly bow my head and thank God for it. I have to confess, I’m not very good at the later. Most of the time my inward prayer life consists of this, “Lord, please forgive me for my anger. Lord, please forgive me again. Can you please forgive me some more? Please forgive me.” Thankfully, His forgiveness never runs out. If there were a limit, I’d have used it up by now.

As it turned out, I was able to get a ride from the gas station to the studio in time to record my song. I got a ride from the studio to my aunt’s house to spend the night. My aunt took me to my speaking engagement with the lovely ladies at the First Congregational Church on Saturday morning. Another friend took me from there to the library that afternoon. And, after getting his own car fixed, Justin drove from St. Joseph to Otsego to pick me up and bring me home. Monday, that which I had greatly feared came to pass. The mechanic told me my car had busted a head gasket and I shouldn’t bother getting it fixed. I called an acquaintance in Kalamazoo who sells old cars and he had one for $1500. Another friend loaned me the money to buy it. I am now in possession of yet another old car. God willing, this one will last me until I’ve QUICKLY payed off the car and until I’ve saved up some money for the next car. If not, I guess I’ll have opportunity to learn my life-long lesson again.

This is not a very pretty post. I apologize. But it is true. Life stinks most of the time. But God is still good. Thankfully, He doesn’t make life go just as I want it, or I’d never realize how much ugliness remains inside of me. Last, but not least, He always provides. And now for a bit of humor:

Farewell, old car. You are forever immortalized by

The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club in which you run out of gas

and break down on the side of the road

and make Megan run the rest of the way to a job interview for which she is late.

How appropriate.

Enter, my new Ford Escort, cherry red and rusty.

May your life last as long as it takes for me to save up money to replace you.

And so goes life with old cars.