By Mary Wenzl
I have the privilege of wrapping up this summer’s blog series on exploring the concepts of how our God restores, revives, and renews. The other bloggers this month have explored various ways one can define “renew.” For me, the word means two things: “resume (an activity) after an interruption,” and “replace (something that is broken or worn out).” [Definitions from Oxford Languages]
I am retired and live on a limited income. One of the concerns I have had since retiring is how I would manage times when I would need to make big ticket purchases, such as replacing a car. When I retired, I was driving a 1999 Toyota Sienna Van. At the beginning of March this year, that van had 226,000 miles on it. It still looked pretty good, especially since it sat outside all day, but had some mechanical issues that made me wary of driving it out of town. It also used up gasoline quickly, getting at best 17 mpg. I knew that someday soon I would need to figure out how to replace this vehicle. I made it through the winter of 2020 but was really concerned about driving it for another Nebraska winter. I was tentatively planning on trying to replace the van at the end of 2021, but I needed to start saving money for that purpose. At the time, I was busy saving money for expensive dental work, so was not quite sure how I was going to also save money to purchase a newer vehicle. Well, God solved that problem for me.
On Saturday, February 27, 2021, I noticed a small pile of loose debris on the driveway right next to the driver’s side front door of my van; it looked like a pile of crumbled up leaves. It was light weight and blew across the ground when I attempted to pick some of it up in my hand. I could not identify what it was. The next day, Sunday, I noticed that the speedometer in my van had stopped working. It would not register how fast I was driving; just sat on “0”. The following day I noticed that the “check engine” light was showing on the dashboard. On Tuesday morning, there was another small pile of debris on the driveway near the same door. The pile was smaller, but when I opened my van door, a large amount of debris spilled out of the car. It was coming from an area near where the hinge attached the van door to the frame. An examination showed that the crumpled-up leaves were crumpled-up insulation foam, which had been in the space underneath the left front vender of the van. I could also see that a protective covering was pried off around the front left wheel well. The insulation still inside the car was a solid block, and the debris on the ground was “chewed” or “gnawed up” insulation.
At this point, I remembered that my neighbors were having problems with squirrels chewing on the Christmas lights they had strung on their deck. The squirrels gnawed on and removed the bulbs and bit through the connecting wires. Suddenly, 2+2 made sense: Squirrel!
When I started my van, I noticed that more warning lights were glowing on the dashboard. The van still drove ok as the mechanics of the engine seemed ok, so I drove my van cautiously that day. I also called a car repair shop and made an appointment for Thursday morning. In the meantime, I did extensive research online to see what the problem(s) with my van might be. On Thursday I found out the news. Squirrel(s) indeed had gotten into the engine of my van and had been eating away on the electrical harness wires. The extent of the damage could not be totally determined, but the estimate for repair was at least $1,000. OUCH! I noticed the first pile of debris outside my car immediately after we had experienced a week of unusually bitter cold days and snow. I assumed that the squirrel(s) had burrowed into the car engine for warmth, as my car had sat in the driveway unused for numerous days due to the weather. I had been isolating at home to stay warm. I guess the squirrels were cold too.
Well, I contacted my insurance agent to see if “squirrel damage” was covered. The agent had to look it up because he had never had such a claim in 22 years. Sure enough, it was covered! A claims investigator looked at the car at the repair shop and determined that the actual cost of repairing the damage was around $1,650, which was $25 dollars more than the company would give for the fair market value of the van. The van was not safe to drive as is, so I had to let the insurance company total my car. My car had been totaled by a squirrel!
I’m amazed how God works to help his people, and the unique ways God accomplishes his purposes. I had not been specifically praying to God for help to replace my van. My plan was to wait until late 2021 to start looking into replacing it. God, being omnipotent, knew that I needed to have a reliable vehicle before then, one that got good gas mileage since I am on a limited income. You see, all my grandchildren live in airpark, and it cost me around $5 round trip to see them with my van. I had to limit the number of times I could visit them. I also was limited to staying in Lincoln since I did not trust my van to take on a highway trip. As it has turned out, I have had to use my “new” car a lot since I purchased it at the end of March. I ended up with a 2013 Toyota Camry hybrid, and the gas mileage is phenomenal. I average close to 40 mpg in town. My monthly gasoline bill has been cut in half, and I have been able to take road trips out of town with grandkids and friends.
I could see God’s hand all through the process of looking for a new “used” vehicle. The car that was right for me and fulfilled all my needs was not on a car lot when I started looking, but by March 31st, it was mine. How did I pay for it? That was also provided by God. I was able to get an affordable car loan, and the down payment was covered by the insurance settlement I got from my van being totaled. The taxes and licensing fees were paid for by using the Economic Income check that I received from the US Government (due to the Pandemic) on March 24th. Without that $1,400 check, and the settlement check, I would not have been able to pay for all the expenses of purchasing another car! There is more to my story about the process I had to go through to find a car that worked for me as I had unique requirements, but that story is too long to tell in this blog. God’s hand was visible to me throughout the entire process.
So, how does my story relate to the topic of renewal for this month’s blog? Well, my lifestyle has been renewed by getting a newer, gas efficient vehicle. I had to stop many of the activities that I wanted to do, or was limited in how often I could do activities which required using a reliable vehicle. I have been able to resume seeing people and family that had been interrupted due to my transportation issue. I was also able to replace my van which was broken and worn out. My freedom has been renewed. I have been renewed because God decided to appoint a squirrel to further His purpose for my life.
I was vividly reminded of a story in the Bible where God also appointed a lowly creature for a specific task to further His purposes. In the book of Jonah, God appointed a worm to help Jonah understand God’s purposes and sovereignty. Jonah, a prophet, was instructed by God to go to the City of Nineveh to warn them that they had to change their ways, or they would be destroyed. Jonah resisted doing God’s bidding. You may remember the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish because he was not following God’s instructions. Another part of the story may not be familiar to you, but I was reminded of it when my van was totaled by a squirrel. To set the scene, Jonah had left the belly of the fish, and gone to Nineveh to convey God’s message to the people. He was angry with God because he did not feel the people of Nineveh deserved to be saved. The story picks up in verse 5:
“Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”Jonah 4:5-11 ESV
This story shows that God can use even the littlest, most insignificant things to accomplish His purposes on this earth. In my case, He appointed a squirrel to provide renewal in my life, and I am very thankful. (I am also trusting that God will keep the squirrels away from my new vehicle. I still love the little creatures. LOL.)