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It was the beginning of July and we were days away from moving from Salem, Oregon to our new Jobs in Ukiah, CA. It was July of 2020, the middle of Covid. Our trusty van with 200,000+ miles on it suddenly started groaning in distressing ways. The transmission was slipping and making terrible crunching and grinding noises. We had to get a different car, quickly. After some quick online searching, we found a used Ford Edge just down the road at the closest dealership. We limped over there, traded in our old friend and drove away with the Ford Edge. It was a much newer model than the old van, with modern bells and whistles that seemed so new and techy to us. We marveled at the touch screen center console and digital display. 

We didn’t have more than a couple days to finish packing, load the moving truck and show our house to potential buyers (someone made an offer that we accepted - what a relief!). On our last night in Oregon we stayed in a motel then in the morning did a final cleaning of the house before leaving for California around 11:00 for the 565 mile trip. Isaac and I were in my X-terra and Debbie and Micah were in our newest car along with three cats and our dog, Chip.

The trip was miserable. Traffic was stop and go north of Redding. It was blazing hot and we couldn’t stop to take a break because of the pets. Isaac and I made it to Ukiah around 11:00 PM, but it was almost another hour before Debbie arrived. Back at the junction of highway 20 and 53 traffic stopped for close to an hour with Debbie, Micah and the pets right in the middle of it. By the time they were able to get moving again it was pitch black. 

Debbie describes being frustrated that she could not get the bright headlights to stay on. They would only come on while she was pushing the lever, but wouldn’t stay on (It was her first time driving the car at night). It was close to midnight when she finally was on 101 and heading south, so close to Ukiah, when she saw the flashing lights in her rearview mirror. 

Debbie pulled over frustrated with yet another delay and wondering what she had done wrong. The officer came to the passenger side of the car. Debbie rolled down the window and the officer said, “Did you know that you’ve been driving without your headlights on?”

“Oh, no!” Debbie laughed, “We just bought this car and I don’t know how to turn them on!”

Looking in at a car full of two humans, three cats, and a dog, the bemused officer replied, “I have a Ford, I’ll come around to show you.”

Turns out that was all the motivation Debbie needed to frantically try to figure it out before the officer made it around the car. And yes, before he appeared on the driver’s side, she managed to get the headlights on. So, with a “Thank you,” and a “Drive safely,” the officer left and Debbie made it to our destination for the night.

New is wonderful, but new also takes some getting used to, some adjustment. It can be a little stressful, cause a little anxiety, even though it’s exactly what is needed and wanted. This is true for a new job, a new home, or even a new school year. I think it’s wise to be gentle with those in the middle of new, like that patient officer in the middle of the night in July of 2020, or like us teachers and parents at the beginning of the new of school here at UJA. Our students may feel some stress and anxiety with the new, even in the middle of a good thing. Let’s plan on being gentle with their hearts as they adjust to the new school year.

I’m reminded of another new that also needs adjusting to. 

King David cries out in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God!” after realizing his need for healing.

I love God’s response in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

And God reminds us to be gentle with it as we adjust to this wonderful newness of heart, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

God bless,

Rick Nelson