Tuesday, January 23, 2007

White, beautiful, cold, and treacherous

At a quarter to six I drove down a stretch of elevated highway near downtown Wichita - my typical afternoon commute home. I noticed I was unusually tense and a sore neck reminded me why.
Two days earlier we enjoyed some rare snow time by taking the kids and two friends to go sledding. On the way home the volume in the car was boisterous and rising! I tried a diversion by turning on a CD of South African music, hoping to quiet down conversation (not a brilliant idea, more of a tired feeble attempt!)
Grace was not happy with all the noise, and I made further adjustments to the stereo. On a straight stretch of downtown flyover, with ice and snow remnants left by the plow, the land cruiser started drifting sideways. I pictured the rear tires frantically clawing at pellets of ice, trying to establish traction.
I tried to correct, and the swerve became aggravated and in the opposite direction as my confidence in our four-wheel-drive icon of invulnerability flew out the window.
We started a spin while sliding towards the left shoulder. Past 90 degrees the front right corner of the bumper hit the cement barrier, keeping us squarely from a 15 plus foot drop. The car bounced off this rotated further and hit the back right corner with an unforgiving, resolute crunch.
I remember disappointment when I heard that sound. It wasn't a bright crunch, like someone biting down on a crisp taco. It was dull and painful. Perhaps the immediate thought of bending metal made me wince inside.
Judging by the sore necks Olivia and I have, at that moment our bodies must have strained against seatbelts.
We stopped, facing east, on the left shoulder as snow flakes continued to fall. Fortunately no other traffic was nearby. I crossed over to the right shoulder and stopped to gather my thoughts.
Breanna noticed our spare tire was back in the left shoulder. It took some time to calm down the kids. A firm "We are OK. We are stopped and we are going to be alright" seemed to work.
Walking across the slick highway made me wonder if I really wanted to cross it again, between spaces in traffic, with the tire . I thought of dropping it off the overpass to pick it up down below, but I didn't think it would fare too well and who knows where it would bounce!
I got back to the car. As I started tying up a now dragging piece of trim, the highway patrol pulled up. They wanted me to exit the highway and meet with them at a convenient parking lot to fill out the accident report.
Aside from being sore and rattled, no one was hurt, and we give all the credit to God. The car damage could have been worse, and if anything, it re-awakened me to the realities of driving in poor conditions, even in a four wheel drive tank of a car.
Our daily reality, regardless of whether we remember it or not, is we must trust God in everything. I can't explain why this needed to happen right now, but I know He has in His hands the way to Nairobi, body panels for the Land Cruiser, and the lives of our family and friends. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
I love seeing the snow covered lanes under trees sporting highlighted branches. But, maybe, Spring would be nice ...

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