I Accidentally Sold My Husband’s Car

It all started innocently enough.

“Does anyone have a cheap car they are willing to sell asap?” one of our Facebook friends posted.

“Oh, heavens,” I thought, “Do I have a cheap car for you!”

Our ’99 Chevy Tracker was a birthday gift from me to Ken over a decade ago. While remarkably rugged, it had seen better days. It had been rear-ended twice and not quite repaired by the Chevy dealership. The dome light blinks uncontrollably. It has a strange vibration over 45 mph. The inside door handle on the driver’s side is missing. One window doesn’t roll down. The air conditioning is anemic.

But we loved that vehicle. Its four-wheel drive had taken us to Canada and back several times, including through snow and ice storms. Though small, it had hauled washing machines, dishwasher, chairs, college students, new puppies, and all manner of junk. It moved down from Indiana with us. It carried me on rotations. It took us on vacations for years.

But still, its reliability was doubtful, and we were hesitant to pour money into it. Now with kids coming in the future, we needed to rethink our transportation options. Our beloved Tracker’s days were numbered.

But who would buy a glitchy ’99 Chevy Tracker? We thought we would do as we had done before, donating the car to charity and taking the tax deduction.

When I saw our friend’s post online, I remarked in jest that I had a car for cheap. When he asked for specs, I thought he was kidding. When his wife texted me the next day, I figured I should respond. So I was honest about all of the things that my brain could think of.

His response? “Sounds great!”

I thought he was kidding.

He asked if he could come look at it and how much we wanted for it. I figured we wanted to get the value of the tax benefit out of it, and I invited him to look at it when Ken was at home. I never thought that once he laid eyes on the vehicle would he actually want it.

Oh, right. This was KEN’S car!

I mentioned it to Ken in passing that someone wanted to look at buying the Tracker, and he flashed the same incredulous smile that I had when I saw the Facebook post.

The next day, our friend came by, and asked if he could take the car for a drive, and Ken said, “Sure. Here are the keys. We know where you live.” After a few minutes he returned and told Ken that he would be back the next day with the money.

“For what?”

“For the Tracker. I’m buying it.”

“Really, how much?”

Perhaps I hadn’t gone into enough details with Ken. Fortunately, Ken was agreeable and the deal was made. Turns out, our friend is extremely handy, and he can fix cars. Nothing that was wrong with the Tracker was anything that concerned him. The glitches could be fixed in his skillful hands. He was coming to get the Tracker the next day.

I had sort of accidentally sold my husband’s car.

And I had to go to a conference the next day. And Ken had to go to work.

Uh, oh. We needed a car.

I apologized profusely for selling Ken’s car, for which he graciously forgave me.

Fortunately, I had done a lot of research about what kind of vehicle would meet our needs and our budget, and we got a fantastic deal at CarMax the very next morning. The money from the Tracker allowed us to put down a down payment on a vehicle. While we had never pictured ourselves as minivan owners, we wanted the ability to haul kids, dogs, equipment, etc. but an SUV was just out of our price range. So when the deal was signed, the car was inspected, and they handed the keys over, it was quite awkward when neither of us wanted them.

“You drive it.”

“No, no, honey, I’ve been driving the newer car for years. You drive it.”

“No, no, I’d rather have you in the new vehicle, for the um, safety. Yeah, the safety.”

We giggled as we argued back and forth as to who HAD to drive the minivan.

So here is the vehicle I now drive. All because I accidentally sold my husband’s car.


Love in the Yard of Strangers

I [Ken] am not a fan of shopping in any form or fashion, but I must admit I have enjoyed the last couple of Saturdays as Robin and I have been “yard-sellin”.

True, we’ve gotten some GREAT deals on children’s clothes and toys, but that’s not my favorite part. I am excited about the children who will be wear those clothes and playing with those toys, but that’s still not it. No, my favorite part has been the encouragement that Robin and I have received from the people selling their wares.

A typical encounter begins with us looking over what the folks have set out. We invariably gravitate to the children’s clothes.

“How big are your kids?” Is the question that is almost always asked.

“We’re not sure.” Is our usual response.

Odd looks. Afterall, what kind of parents don’t know their kids sizes?

Robin and I exchange looks. We mentally play rock-paper-scissors to determine who’s turn it is to explain our situation.

One of us starts to explain, “We’re adopting two from the Congo.”

Suddenly the barriers between strangers disappear. Words of encouragement and congratulations follow. No longer are we haggling over prices. [*]

People want to see pictures. They want to hear details. They feel free to ask questions. Lots of questions. How old? How long? What language? When are you going? Why the Congo?

Other customers wait. Or ask their own questions.

But always. ALWAYS. People wish us well or promise to pray for us. They seem to be genuinely excited for us. Every yard sale quickly turns into pep-rally. Strangers give us hugs. STRANGERS! HUGS!!! Seriously!

Better than the deals is the fresh excitement and enthusiasm. God has been blessing us through the kindness of strangers.


[*] Actually most people give us CRAZY deals. Sometimes I don’t want to tell people because I don’t want to be guilty of manipulating their emotions. But Emmanuel getting school approved polo shirts for only ten cents is AWESOME!

What Is Boxing Day?

Growing  up in the United States, I never really knew what Boxing Day was, other than the day after Christmas, in which one wore off the exhaustion of overindulgence from the day before, or created more by shopping after-Christmas sales.

Since I married Ken, I’ve learned a bit more about Boxing Day, and come to appreciate it as a holiday on its own.

Boxing Day is primarily celebrated by countries in the Commonwealth, including Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. There are many explanations as to what exactly Boxing Day celebrates, but they all boil down to this: giving to those who are less fortunate. In contrast to the “getting” of Christmas day, everyone chooses belongings to give away. It’s a day to box up old clothes, books, household items, etc. and donate them to charitable organizations. (It’s also a great time to do so for tax purposes as well.) The consumeristic mindset that we all try to escape, with varying degrees of success, on Christmas day is purged on Boxing Day. In fact, where Ken grew up, stores continued to be closed on Boxing Day in honor of the holiday. (I actually think I like that!)

So, Ken and I celebrated Boxing Day today. We went through our closets, bookshelves, and basement and took a hefty load of donations to Goodwill this morning. It’s a great tradition that we plan on continuing with our Congolese kids too!

How do you celebrate Boxing Day?

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Ringitydingitydingdongding Bells!

You know, when we think of Christmas, we think of one thing.

Maybe you do to.

Bells! Bing-bong! Bing-bong! Bing-bong! Bing-bong!

Ah, the SNL Sweeney sisters said it well, didn’t they?

Today was a cool but sunny day to enjoy Belmont’s Christmas Carillon concert. In case you’ve not heard of a carillon, it is an instrument composed of at least 23 bells, and is played by a keyboard and foot pedals. They are typically enclosed in towers. There are approximately 180 in North America, so they are a fairly rare instrument.

We were surprised that the outdoor concert was a popular Christmas Eve event for Nashville. (Where were all you people last night?) Though there wasn’t much to see, because the carillon is enclosed in Belmont’s bell tower, the sounds were beautiful, and a perfect accompaniment to Christmas Eve anticipation. Belmont’s tower was constructed in 1853 and has served as a water tower, a signal tower in the Civil War, before it became the first carillon tower in the state of Tennessee in 1928.

Another special Christmas Eve treat was lunch from Nashville’s popular Deg Thai food truck, which happened to be the ONLY food truck out today and was just blocks from Belmont. The noodlicious lunch hit the spot before we faced the chilly weather for the concert!

As I sat listening to the carillon concert, it reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas stories.

It was in western Europe in the 1600s, when carillons were still rare, but bells were being accurately tuned in the foundries so that beautiful melodies could be played from the bell towers where they were to be installed.

It was in a grand cathedral in what is now Belgium where a new set of bells had just been installed that a Bishop realized that while he had a grand set of bells, he had no one to play them. He especially desired to have the bells ring out on Christmas morning, celebrating the birth of Christ.

So the Bishop sent word across the land that a bellringer was needed, and requested anyone with experience to come to audition. In those days, word was slow to travel, but eventually men from across the land came to try their hand at ringing the majestic bells.

Unfortunately, because tuned bells were so new in those days, the auditioners lacked experience and talent. The Bishop became discouraged. Time was running short, as Christmas was just a few days away. He was about to give up hope, when a young man approached the rectory door, and gave a loud knock.

The Bishop came to the door, and was surprised to see a young man with no arms standing before him, asking to audition for the position of bell ringer. Hesitant, but not wanting to discourage the young man, he allowed him the opportunity to audition.

The Bishop and the armless bellringer entered the belfry, and the young man began to play — by striking the bells with his face! While shocked at first, the Bishop quickly realized that the music being played was some of the most beautiful he had ever heard. The Bishop tried to stop the man to tell him he was hired, but being distracted, the bellringer slipped and fell from the bell tower to his death.

A small crowd had already begun to gather, first to hear the bells, and now to the side of the now deceased bell ringer. The Bishop flew down the flight of stairs to join the crowd. Someone in the crowd asked, “Who was this man?”

The Bishop’s face fell. “I did not even have the chance to ask him his name,” the Bishop said sadly. “But his face sure rings a bell.”

Alas, the Bishop had not only lost his newfound friend, but the only bell ringer he could find. Christmas would be doubly dark this year.

But the next day, the Bishop heard a familiar loud knock on the door of the Rectory. When he opened the door, he saw a strangely familiar face. “I am the brother of the man who fell to his death from the bell tower yesterday,” the man said. “I would consider it an honor to attempt to play the bells at Christmas in my brother’s place.”

The Bishop was shocked not only at the man’s resemblence, but at his willingness to play the very instrument that led to his brother’s death. Of course, the Bishop wanted the brother to audition, and so they climbed the steps to the top of the belfry.

Both were winded at the top of the stairs, but the brother clearly moreso than the Bishop. Still, he wanted to play the bells. He began to grab for the ropes and play every bit as beautifully as his brother, but he was clearly becoming more and more winded as he played. Finally, in the midst of his first song, he clutched his chest, staggered, and lost consciousness, falling from the bell tower to the ground below.

Again, a crowd had gathered as the man took his last breaths, and as the Bishop arrived, someone asked, “Bishop, this is a terrible loss. Who was this man?”

The Bishop’s face was downcast as he confessed, “I do not know his name, but he’s a dead ringer for his brother.”


I hope this Christmas, you find time to laugh, to enjoy some good food, good music, and spend time with those you love. But most of all, I hope you find time to celebrate the wonderous gift of the birth of Christ!

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On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: The Great Christmas Escape

Tonight’s Christmas celebration was a free concert at the Frist Museum of Art. We’ve attended concerts at the Frist before, and have had a good time, and this one looked to be a great way to celebrate Christmas.

We parked in a free spot at Cummins station, and made the short hustled hike over, but realized once we got there that we were a few minutes late. We listened for music coming from the lobby, where we had attended concerts before, and there was none. We looked around and finally succumb to the humiliation of asking. The attendant said that the concert was in the cafe. So we rushed back down to the cafe, where there were six people and no musician.

We asked the waitress if we were in the right spot for the concert, and she said she thought so but it looked like the musician wasn’t going to show up.

WHAT?! But this is the 11th day of Christmas and I have no back up plan!

(I should have seen it as a Providential opportunity.)

As we were speculating about traffic, illness, or just plain forgetfulness, a man carrying a speaker walked in. “We had set up in the lobby,” he muttered. Sure enough, the musician was at the Frist, but in the wrong area. She was heading toward us. A family of three seized the opportunity and  bailed.

So, we faced a dilemma: Do we stay for a concert with all three other people, or do we cut our losses and head out? We decided to stay. I sipped on a hot chocolate while Ken dug into a piece of chocolate cake, while they set up. 

Finally, 30 minutes late, the concert started. The artist introduced herself to all five of us and prepared to sing. She set up the song, and waited for the audio track to begin.


After several minutes of uncomfortable silence, during which I identified all available exits, and ranked them in the least embarrassing to leave through, she gave up on the sound system and began singing a capella.

Her lovely lyric soprano voice broke the uncomfortable silence. Well, the silence except for the three people in the back who continued to talk full-volume during her song.

The music did attract a few more passersby, mostly museum staff, and the attendance topped out at a whopping 10 people. Still not enough for us to be able to leave with any sort of anonymity. In fact, she was sitting between 2 of the 3 exits. She made great eye contact with the audience, but since there were so few of us, we met her full gaze approximately every 8.23 seconds. She might as well have been sitting at our table belting out Christmas tunes.

After the first song, her sound man was able to get her audio tracks to work, and the concert got underway. A fine selection of “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “Deck the Halls,” as well as a few other songs, before she turned to more serious music of “Silent Night,” “Away in  Manger,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” While her voice was lovely, the more she sang, the more she depended on her sheet music for words. Then for rhythm.  By “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I was convinced either she was having a stroke or was completely unprepared for the concert. She invited us to sing along, I suspect to drown out the fact that she had no idea what she was doing, but by this point, we were back down to six very confused people in the audience. No one was about to utter a musical peep.

At the end of “Bethlehem,” she declared she was going to take a five-minute break, and then listed at least ten other songs that she planned to sing after the break. We were surprised that many Christmas songs even existed! Maybe she was going to start doubling up? Since she hadn’t gotten the lyrics right the first time, would she even remember what she had sung?

Then we saw our chance –a light at the end of the tunnel that was either our freedom or an oncoming train. Fortunately, another audience member created a diversion by approaching her with a question, and we were able to duck out into the December night nearly unnoticed.

So, it wasn’t the best Christmas concert ever. Okay, it may have been one of the worst. Into every 12 days of Christmas a little “bah humbug” must fall. On the other hand, we may be giggling about this one for years. Maybe it was a burst of Christmas joy after all.

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On the Tenth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: The Best Outdoor Christmas Brought Indoors

Today’s Christmas journey kept us closer to home. I think some of the best of Christmas decor in Nashville is in Opryland Hotel, which is less than 5 miles from our house. With a new walkway from free parking at the still-being-restored Opry Mills mall, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to visit.

If you’ve never been, it’s hard to explain how fabulous this hotel is, and they spare no expense or attention to detail in decorating for Christmas. The lush landscaping indoors with glass ceilings creates hundreds of thousands of square feet of beautiful atria. More than 2 million lights, which take four months to hang, enhance the climate-controlled indoor labyrinth of walkways, and the outdoor drive-through Nativity is gorgeous. Scripture is even read aloud to remind guests of the real meaning of Christmas. The gift shops are always fun to look through, and the restaurants are amazing — although no longer within our budget.

It’s hard to believe that all the beauty in Opryland Hotel was flooded by 10 feet if water 18 months ago, and was closed for 6 months for $215 million in renovations and restoration. We’re so glad Opryland came back, and can’t wait for Opry Mills to fully reopen. After all, they’re some of the best free spots to visit in Nashville!

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Just Love Christmas

Tonight’s Christmas adventure-seeking took us to Murfreesboro to the coffee roaster that helps us raise funds for adoption: Just Love Coffee. Tonight they had an event called Carols and Coffee, which was a fundraiser put on by another church to raise adoption funds for an adoptive family. Because we’re an adopting family, we were able to direct the money we spent toward our adoption, and enjoy some great coffee and awesome music.

The coffee shop is nearly impossible to find without a Garmin and a good amount of faith that it’s correct, but we loved the shop. Lined with 1980’s classic video games, it was like we had stepped back to 1985, when Donkey Kong, Robotron, and Karate Champ were quarter-sucking entertainment magnets. There were many seating options from the counter, to table-top video games, to traditional couches and tables. There was a wooden loft with extra seating and many video game options as well. But the best part of Just Love Coffee was the coffee itself. I enjoyed a pumpkin spice caramel latte, and Ken had a caramel mocha. Having been a barista myself, I must admit that I’m a bit of a coffee snob, and of course it must be fair trade. My cup of coffee was perhaps the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Perfection. We also each had a dessert, a red velvet roll and a pumpkin roll. Also excellent.

We stayed to enjoy the music for a while, but soon realized that there were so many people standing, we gave up our seats, bought the Christmas CD and headed back to Nashville.

If you’re ever in the Murfreesboro area, and craving a cup of coffee, make the effort to find Just Love Coffee at 129 MTCS Drive.  You will love the coffee, and the atmosphere, and you’ll know that you’re supporting farmers around the world, and supporting adoption. If you mention our names, we’ll even get a portion of the profits!  And if you’re not near Murfreesboro, check out Just Love Coffee products online at our coffee shop!

Coffee. Dessert. Christmas carols. Supporting a good cause.

It was a great evening.

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On The Eighth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Bright Lights in the Big City

I must confess, I have not put up our Christmas tree this year. Exhausted seems to be the theme for this year, and I just didn’t have the energy over Thanksgiving break when I usually put it up, and we’ve had plans almost every night since. Then I thought my semester would end last Friday, but alas, I continue to have to plow through must-do lists before Christmas break. Add on top of that a case of bronchitis, followed by a head cold, which of course makes my asthma crazy.

No. I haven’t put up my Christmas tree yet.

So when I pulled into our driveway this afternoon, I was shocked to see twinkling lights coming from our living room window.

Ken put up the Christmas tree. All by himself. And it looks amazing. He saved two ornaments for me to hang. Each year, we purchase an ornament or two specifically for that year. This year’s ornaments are two black children dressed up for a Christmas pageant — both as angels, with the girl holding a sign that says “Hope.”

This evening, we toured some of the best residential Christmas light displays in Nashville, including the official Metro Nashville’s Best Christmas light display. We drove from Donelson, to north Nashville, to Hermitage, to Antioch, to Brentwood, and finally to Franklin, to drop off our Christmas letters to Santa. (Apparently the Franklin Parks and Recreation department has special connections.) We listened to Christmas music, and had a great time just spending the evening together.

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: The Night of the Child

For today’s Christmas activity, we had the opportunity to view Christmas through the eyes of over 100 artists’ nativity scenes from around the world in the Night of the Child Exhibit at The Upper Room Museum.

More than 30 cultures were represented, in media ranging from wood to porcelain, wax to paper, and everything in between.

The exhibit was amazing. Each scene spoke something of the birth of Christ, and about the culture from which the artist came. From pocket-sized nativities meant for those who couldn’t make it to Cathedral at Christmas in Hispanic cultures to an exquisite oragami nativity, each was a wonder to behold.

In addition to sculptures, there was also a lovely collection of paintings of Mary with Jesus as a baby. Many were rich with symbolism and expression reflecting the paradox of a mother raising God Incarnate.

My favorite nativity was an elaborate one, taking up a whole corner of the museum. The scene was a busy Bethlehem. There were merchants, and busy households, musicians, children playing, men fishing, etc. I had to look carefully for the manger scene, tucked away behind one of the houses. And indeed, up behind the city was a group of shepherds tending their sheep, but no one was paying attention to them. It was strange that the artist depicted so much going on while Jesus was lying in a stinky barn in the background. Why weren’t all of the characters facing the manger? It was as if they were so wrapped up in the busyness of the census that they never realized that their attention should have been focused only on a tiny baby just inches from them who had come to save the world.

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And in a quiet corner of The Upper Room Museum, I saw a reflection of us, and of me. Busy with party after party, baking, wrapping, standing in line, shopping, grading papers, worrying about two precious children who may not even know that it’s Christmastime. Meanwhile, the Savior of the World waits quietly to for us, for me, to take note.

And really, every artist’s reflection echoed the same message. Quiet. Humility. Pausing to kneel. Worshipping. God With Us.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Divas and Dirty Santa

Thanksgiving through Christmas is a busy time in the life of our church. From the all-church Thanksgiving dinner, to the children’s and the middle school Christmas productions, our church loves to gather around some good food and good company each Sunday evening.

Tonight’s Christmas celebration is what has become fondly known as the Diva Christmas show. Traditional carols and newer tunes are sung by ladies, and they were joined by a male vocalist (divo) this year as well. It was a sweet evening of music while enjoying our potluck soup and salad dinner.

The “after party” for the Diva Christmas show was the annual college ministry Christmas party. Students who have gone away to college have now returned for Christmas break, and it was awesome gathering together for awesome food, a chance to catch up, and a “regift” Dirty Santa gift exchange.

Much fun was had on the sixth day of Christmas!

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