Years ago, standing in our parent’s basement one of my sisters wondered what it would be like to deal with all of our dad’s paperwork. While not a hoarder in other areas, every piece of paper the man had touched through his life, he kept.

In that moment, the Lord gave me this insight: All this paper is more than paper, it is the container of your dad’s story.

Tax records going back decades were not kept in case of being audited. No, they were kept as a record. A record that said, “I was here, I took care of my family, I held a job, I gave to my church and charities. I invested myself in what matters in this world.” I can tell you this is not what my tax records mean to me because I do not keep my story in tax records.

Oddly, though a non-car person, my story is held, in part, by the cars I have owned.

As a college graduation present, my parents got me a car. It was love at first sight! She was a  red Dodge Shadow and had an air spoiler and a strip down her side. In sixth grade I was cast as Margot Lane in a radio play about The Shadow; so, her name was Margot.

My education program was completed with a year of student teaching and graduate classes. Margot drove me out to Perry Middle School in rural Kansas. We had our first near death experience along those roads. She drove me to South Junior High where I learned to love teaching Algebra. And from South Junior High we hurried to the University of Kansas where I taught ESL to students from around the world as I completed my Master’s Degree.

During the summers we spent hours together driving home to Denver. And then hours apart as she sat in a parking lot while I taught English and fell in love with China. After several years of teaching in Kansas and summers in China, Margot watched as my dad helped load a U-Haul to take my worldly possessions back to Denver to live for two years in my sister’s basement.

Dad headed off to Denver and Margot and I hit the road for a detour through Wichita. A dear friend had donated a kidney to her brother and I wanted to visit her one last time before I moved to China.

Because I was only going to China for two years, it seemed silly to sell her. So I didn’t.

I do not know where my story would have been stored if I had sold her. I am also not sure when she became the keeper of my story. All I know is that she did. Every time I returned to the U.S. she was there to drive me around and provide me with a sense of independence.

In the blink of an eye, nine years passed.

I returned to the U.S. on a study leave. Margot and I were united again. And again she drove me to school, to visit friends, to speak at churches. She heard me sing and bore silent witness to the tears I shed in the months leading up to another goodbye.

In the blink of an eye, three years passed.

I returned to China. My beloved Margot sat once more, waiting for me.

Whenever I returned to Denver, she was there. She provided me the gift of coming and going at will. But then one summer, it was obvious that Margot was aging and the time had come to do the unthinkable.

No one would have paid her true value and I could not bear to have her underappreciated. I called the local rescue mission and explained I had a car to donate. We set up an appointment for me to turn over the title, I had only one stipulation: You cannot take her until I have left for China. I cannot bear to see her drive away.

The pain cut so deep, it went beyond reason. I might have given my left arm to be able to keep her. And that’s when I hit me.

Margot held my story.

I loved living overseas. I thrived. But every now and then as I aged the twinge would come when I thought of siblings and peers who had houses and cars and other “normal” markers of adulthood. I had a passport full of stamps, yes. But I had nothing tangible to point to that indicated “Here is an adult. Here is a ‘real person.’”

Margot had been with me through my 20s and 30s. She was the one constant in a sea of change. While I lived a more nomadic existence, packing up after each year in China (another story for another time), at age 30 having life rhythms I had had at twenty, I would say to myself, “Don’t worry, I am a real adult, I own a car.”

Last week all of this flooded back.

Four years ago I moved back to the U.S. and bought another car. Much to everyone’s shock, after insisting on only buying red computers, red this, red that. She was blue. As a Honda Fit it seemed only fitting that she be called Fiona.

Cutting to the chase, she was pummeled in a colossal hail storm in May. Last week she was deemed totaled. This had not occurred to me when I casually dropped her off the end of August. On the phone with the insurance who went over the details and what I would be paid and steps I need to take, she casually asked if I needed to get an any personal items out of the car before she was reclaimed at the repair place. Of course I do you idiot. (Only part said out loud.)

I still own nothing but a car as a sign of adulthood. And now that which held my story for the last four years, is no longer mine.

My story will go on. God at work in and through me, to be sure.

But I am left wondering who will keep the story now? And why can the cost of the call sneak up? Will Fiona’s new owner know what she is capable of?

Love, Amy is on sale today for only $5 on Kindle because Love, Amy reminds me of Margot. It is a privilege to share these stories.

It may not be taxes, paper, or cars, but in his mercy, God uses ordinary things of this world to help hold your story. What is it for you? 

A version of this first appeared on A Life Overseas.

Leave A Comment

  1. Jessa September 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    People and words and dates/numbers help hold my story.

    People: I attach much more deeply than most people realize. I get it–I’m terribly reserved, in person, so it’s hard for people to know how much they matter and how much of my story is connected to them. But when I remember where I’ve been, when I tell my story, the vessel that holds that memory is often a person.

    Words: I process through writing. I’m not very organized (or, possibly, am much too organized, to the point of creating artificial separations between parts of life) in keeping journals, but I do keep several (6 at last count, and a blog to boot). Most of my thinking–giving voice to my story–happens in those journals.

    Dates/numbers: these are my most visceral vessels. My body takes note of them long before my mind does, sort of the way you often hear an airplane or helicopter before you’re able to find it in the sky. Parts of my story that I haven’t consciously remembered yet show up in numbers and dates, though I don’t often understand the pattern until years later.

    Maybe the (eternal) number-containers are there to balance out the (very temporal) people-vessels. That’s an interesting thought. I’ll have to sit with that a while.

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      Amy September 27, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Jessa, I so appreciate hearing from you! I love how you brought out that often our body knows things before other parts of us. If we could all be better about listening for and then honoring what is going on — seeing it as one of the mercies God extends to us to know ourselves better and then walk towards more wholeness.

  2. Mike September 20, 2017 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    I’m sure this won’t surprise you, Amy, but songs hold my story. Songs from Good News Clubs and Backyard Bible Clubs (Stop! and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me…) mark my childhood; songs by John Denver and Johnny Cash mark my teenage years; songs by Love Song and the Imperials (among others) mark my college years; and a plethora of praise and worship songs mark my adult life.

    But there have been two songs that have been my constant companions throughout my entire life, and which, more than ever before, encapsulate the hope that I have within: It Is Well With My Soul, and This World Is Not My Home.

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      Amy September 27, 2017 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      Mike, I am not surprised :)! And since we are close in age, your songs were like a walk down memory lane for me! Thanks :)!

  3. Hayden September 21, 2017 at 4:35 am - Reply

    This is a unique and beautiful blog post Amy. One of my favorite in a while. You should put this one out there on social media and have people share it if you haven’t already.

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      Amy September 27, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks Hayden, it is out on social media :). Appreciate how this resonated with you.

  4. Amy Large September 22, 2017 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Amy, you know me, though I didn’t spend as long in China. Coming home to my car (though I definitely did NOT miss her in China) was my thing, too (OK, I had a small home, but it was rented out to friends). Last March, I hit a slow-poke waltzing deer while driving my “Subie”, the twelve-year-old-plus car that I planned to use at least five more years or until 200,000K miles (she was only at 142,000). I wanted to be a good steward of my resources. So, with the right side of my hood bunched up, the radiator blown, and not even a scratch on my bumper (go figure), I thought she’d be repaired. (Most importantly, my almost two-year-old and I were OK, praise God.) When the cost to repair vs. the value ratio was too high, insurance totaled my Subie. What?! “I’ll be OK, it’s just a car”, I told myself. But a few weeks later when I had to go get my personal belongings out of Subie, and there she sat, under a dusting of snow in a forlone dirt lot. I lost it. Seriously. I bawled. She was just a material thing but I mourned the loss of future memories together for I had already had so many with her. I took good car of her (hence the good salvage value, which was a wee bit of a consolation.) I didn’t want to leave her alone. But, I had to say good-bye, so I did. And being 2017, I have pictures to prove it. Come April, I have a new-to-me Subie 2. She’s not the same, but I’m getting used to her and we’ll have fun together, too, I’m sure.
    Thanks for sharing…I understand, girl.

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      Amy September 27, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      I took a selfie with Fiona and one of the mechanics walked by and kind of made fun of me :). I get it, but I did not care what he thought of me!!! I wanted my photo :)

      • Amy Large October 5, 2017 at 12:22 pm - Reply

        Good for you! I just read about your 2nd car today on your most recent post. :( boo

  5. Rachel October 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Saw the link in your email – I loved this post but I’m sorry you had to say goodbye to your car! :(

    For me it’s a green suitcase and her zippers are finally breaking down after years of wear. In every state, country, house, hotel, train, car, plane or African taxi-bus I’ve traveled as an adult and single woman – from my first days in college to living on the opposite side of the world in my mid-twenties -she’s the only one who’s consistently been there to see the story with me. I love what you said about it holding your story… It feels stupid to care about something as trivial as a suitcase but there’s something to be said for having at least one tangible, physical constant in a life of constant change!

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