Our Series of Unfortunate Events, Part 1

Lemony Snicket’s got nothin’ on us this last week.

To quote my favorite youth pastor, quoting his favorite movie, “Lemme ‘splain. No ‘stoo much.  Lemme sumup.”

For those of you who don’t know, my husband, Stephen accepted the call of associate pastor in South Dakota a few weeks ago.  Ever since then, we have been busy planning, packing, and preparing for moving our family of five out to make a new home for ourselves among the people there.  The plan was to rent an apartment for a year while waiting to sell our house back in Illinois so we could buy something here.  We found a great apartment, right near the church, which was the same size as our house PLUS a two car garage! But it wouldn’t come available until the week after we had to be in SD. So we planned to pack up our suitcases for the week and stay in the basement apartment of some wonderful and generous church members while we waited for our apartment to be ready.  I spent hours laying out the floor plan on the computer, calculating every piece of furniture and where it would go, analyzing window treatments and assessing where to use which and which to replace…and on, and on, and on. I am a planner. I love to plan.  I don’t always love to follow the plan, but I totally love the planning part.

Turns out God doesn’t always follow our plans either.

As the Big Moving Day approached, I had lists and charts and plans all over the place of what needed packed and when it was going to get packed. I had The Plan, and I was more than ready to attack it. The problem is I also have an imaginative 4 year old, an inquisitive 2 year old, and a just plain, simply adorable 5 month old.  And they do not ever seem to follow The Plan.

With just twenty four hours to go before the moving help from church descended on us, I looked around my home.  Mass chaos surrounded me.  And not the kind the was neatly organized and packed into nicely labeled boxes, stacked and waiting for the moving truck.  The kind that was socks strewn about the floor, legos under chairs, dishes piled on counters, and unmentionables hanging out to dry.  Still.

This was not the way I envisioned my house looking twenty-four hours before The Big Day. I sent a quick SOS to some of my moving help to let them know there was an urgent need for more boxes, tape, and bubble wrap…and that they might need to just plan on finishing packing for a couple hours before the loading started.  I figured my packers could show up at 9, and my movers could come by 11, and we should have things squared away by then.

In a perfect world, all of the things we needed to live “intermediately” for the week, like clothes, toothbrushes, food items, pack ‘n plays, kids toys and books, etc., would be tidily, carefully, orderly packed into the back of my van long before the moving craze began. But Moving Day dawned without even having the back of the van emptied and ready to receive all its goods. I looked at my list of things that still needed packed:

-desk stuff

-hall closet

-coat closet

-storage room

-storage hall

-bathrooms

-laundry room

-kitchen

 

Seriously. It felt like half the house still hadn’t been packed.

And then they lowered The Boom.

The movers were not coming at 11am.

They were coming at 8:30am. That’s what time had been announced at church. And that’s what time people would start showing up. My heart dropped to my stomach.  It was 7:49, and the first car pulled in the driveway to help.  I looked around my very messy, very unpacked house.  It was officially time to panic.

While the guys ran out to get donuts for the movers, I threw on some clothes and began gathering up the kids things to run them over a block to Grandma’s for the day.  I couldn’t think clearly about a solution until the little munchkins were no longer underfoot. I strapped the two oldest into Stephen’s Corolla (we had moved their seats into his car in order to use the van to transport stuff) and realized the infant seat was not going to fit. *sigh* that meant another trip over. I dropped the kids off with hasty, haphazard instructions and drove back for the baby. As I pulled into our driveway, I saw a steady stream of men carrying all of my worldly goods and loading them into the truck.

Oh, no, no, no! I thought. They’re not ready! I’m not ready! Then…The unmentionables!! They were still out in plain sight. Tears of humiliation, panic, and sorrow over leaving our home began to prick at my eyes, fighting to finally be released. Up until this point, I hadn’t let myself think too much about the fact that we were not only going to a new place, we were leaving a beloved place.  This quaint home on a hill with a yard that melted into a woods and a ravine at the bottom.  A home we bought with our first baby in hand, dreaming of our kids running, playing, and having adventures in the woods.  The home that we spent hours meticulously planning and finishing the basement into a beautiful addition that enabled us to stay there as our family grew and grew.  The home where we lost one baby and welcomed two more.  The home where we learned firsthand that jumping headfirst into God’s plan resulted in the joy that was having Rehan be our host daughter for a year.  Our first home–a home with so many sweet memories.  Packed up in boxes, and being carried into a truck.

And as I stood back to survey the scene, I knew it was too late. It was too late to turn back and change our minds. This thing was really happening.  And, as far as my Plan was concerned, it was happening all wrong.  But there was no stopping the momentum now.  The movers had arrived. They had a job to do.  And all my complicated directions about “this goes, this doesn’t,” etc. were of little use now.  The best I could do was get the baby to my mother-in-law and hurry back to do some damage control.

The emotions that had begun to well at seeing my household carried out in boxes (and some not) grew deeper and deeper, finally overflowing into a cascade of tearful sobs as my mother-in-law opened her door to receive me and her grandbaby. My wonderful mother-in-law folded me in her arms and just let me cry, sobbing out how my house wasn’t ready and for goodness’ sake I had nursing pads on the floor, and she empathized and consoled and comforted as only a mom can do. I finally stood back, wiped my puffy eyes, and said “Thanks. I just really needed a good cry.” I put on my brave face, and headed back to the chaos.

The first thing I noticed upon arriving back on the moving scene, was that the nursery was now empty. Completely empty. Where was the suitcase of all the kids’ things for the next week?? I hurriedly went from one man to the next, asking “Has anyone seen a black suitcase?” Finally someone said yes. He had loaded it on the truck.

I ran headlong to the truck, where Mike was meticulously packing everything into the truck with order and precision. I relayed my request, and he looked back in dismay, then hope, then dismay.

“I know I packed it in here recently. Let me see if I can access it.”

Oh, Lord, let him access it. Grandma just took us on a major shopping spree to clothe all three kids for the next six months, and they are all in that suitcase!

“Found it!” He exclaimed, proudly presenting the suitcase.

“THANK YOU!” I cheered, and promptly moved it to the van. After securing the help of one of the boys to take down all the seats in the van, I quickly began thinking through everything else that needed to be set aside to go with us in the van. I ran around the house, gathering as much as I could between being stopped and asked for direction.

The Cavalry, also known as the Freeman Clan, had arrived with more boxes, tape, and many hands to help.  I hadn’t even seen Jenny yet, but I could hear her already at work in my kitchen, elbow deep in suds washing the mounds of dishes that littered the countertops. Just like my Mama would do, I smiled to myself, eager to thank her.

DeAnna closeted herself in the laundry room (literally), folding clean laundry, packing it in boxes, then starting the next load as I delivered the rest of the bedding, towels, and curtains from our last night’s stay.

And finally, at 11:00, my best friend arrived all the way from my hometown, two large coffees in hand. She instantly handed one to me and said, “Where do you want me?”

I was really thinking we have some of the best friends ever.

I sent her after more boxes, and all the random little items began disappearing into boxes, clearly and neatly labeled by my ever-thoughtful sister-in-law.

And then, everything was gone.

I went from one room to the next, surveying the scene.  Every room was empty. Every closet, every cupboard.  And now it was time to clean. The moving team transitioned into cleaning, and I began delegating tasks to each person.  Windows. Check. Window Wells. Check. Fans. Check. Floors. Check. Cupboards. Check.

One by one each task was checked off. And one by one each wonderful, helpful friend left to go home.  Until it was only Jenny and me left. We were still in the kitchen. Singing “Sound of Music” and our favorite hymns as we wiped every last crumb from every last corner (we hope!). And then Jenny was gone, too, and it was just Stephen and me in our empty little house.  We had a final family farewell cookout at 5:30, and I knew we were almost done, so I sent Stephen to his parents’ house to shower while I mopped the last rooms.

That’s when the First of Many in our very own Serious of Unfortunate Events was noted.

“Where’s the green tag for the moving truck? It was on the top of the fireplace with the paperwork, and no one was supposed to pack it.”

We had no idea where it was, but it definitely was not in the house. Surely the moving company would have a replacement tag? I thought, hoping, praying, all the while feeling a hard knot forming in my stomach.

I checked in each one of the rooms and closets one last time before I left that evening. And each time I saw those vast, empty rooms, that knot in my stomach tightened. I looked in the study and thought, oh no, oh no, the pile of things that needed to be returned, the library book included…it’s in the truck somewhere! and The books I set aside for the kids for the road trip…they are in the truck somewhere.  And The diapers-THE DIAPERS!!!! That huge Sam’s club box of diapers and wipes I bought specifically for the move–it’s packed AND all the cloth diapers got packed–all in the truck somewhere!!

I was feeling sicker and sicker, realizing with every minute, more items which we needed in the next week that had been quickly swiftly swept up in the hubbub and loaded into the truck.

Oh, well. I thought. We will survive.  All I wanted was a hot shower and some clean clothes.  I was overwhelmingly thankful for all the help we had received that day.  We never could have done it without them all.  All our stuff was packed, loaded, and the house was spotless and ready for the new occupants.  God was good.

When we finally got back to my in-law’s that night, exhausted and spent, I headed for the shower, opened our suitcase, and rifled through it for my jammies.

Stephen’s clothes, Stephen’s pants, Stephen’s socks…Wait a minute. Where are my clothes?

I sank back against the wall as realization hit me.

They, too, were packed somewhere in the truck.

In all the crazy and the chaos, I had set aside my clothes to pack into the suitcase, but I had not finished getting them to the suitcase.  When the men arrived, I set aside the suitcase, saying “Don’t pack this!” but forgot that my own clothes were not yet in there.  When the guys asked about the dresser, “Hey, there’s still some stuff in here, is that okay?” I thought it was just those sachet packets and some nylons and waved them past.  When they asked about the clothes in the closet, I only remembered Stephen’s piles that had yet to be packed.  Not my own that had been set aside for the suitcase.

The whole thing was a comedy of errors that was in no way comedic.  A million things could have been done to avoid all the catastophies that descended upon us that Moving Day.  But we just didn’t have time. We didn’t get them done. And we would just have to survive the next week without all that stuff.

And it will only be a week, right, Lord??

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Asenath on May 30, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Oh Dear! That is very Lemony Snickety. On a positive note, you might get a new outfit or two out of the deal!

    Reply

  2. Posted by julie wesselink on May 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

    As I read this with the tears streaming down my cheeks in between the smiles, a few thoughts come to my mind. First, I thought of my 5 1/2 moves with my family. The excited anticipation. The painful goodbyes (I usually kiss the walls too). The meticulous planning (although this isn’t a gift of mine like it is for you). The order and disorder (not sure anyone has been ready for the truck…ever). Secondly, I think about all those emotions and how I wasn’t sure my heart would make it through. Next I think about God and how he used all of those unfortunate events to distract me, protect me, and stretch me in ways I needed to be stretched. He promises that ALL things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. You are walking in His purposes, following His call. Know and rest in His love for you this morning! And then go hug your sweet, sick ones. There will probably be more deviations from your plan today, but not from His. Welcome others who will come along side you in this season of need. Someday you will look back on this and be able to smile…

    Reply

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