The Misheard Word

"NOT what my heart was yearning for…"

by Peg Coleman

Looking back, it's sort of funny to realize that I'm driving a Ford Escort because of a misheard part of a phone conversation. Yes, it seems a rather unusual way to buy a car but everyone who has a car bought it for some reason--and this, at least on the surface, is mine.

My sister and I were having a conversation about her daughter, who was getting ready to leave for her first year of college. My neice would be going to an out of state school, so my sister was thinking of buying her a car to make getting home easier. But having never bought a car before, she wasn't sure where to start. I happened to be looking for a car myself, at just that time. Well, put in a quarter and pull my chain (for those of you who were not raised in the Midwest--that’s short for "I am about to talk non stop about a subject I can obsess about!") So after I told her almost all I had ever read about how to buy a used car (apart from the "go to the dealership, don't haggle, just buy it" sort of buying), there was a thoughtful pause on the other end of the line. Then I am convinced I heard her say, "I'm going to see what I can find her for under $4000." Honest. That's what I thought she said. Even thinking back on that conversation a year and a half later, I am convinced I heard her say that. Well, what could be a better challenge to a bargain hunter like me. I thought that if she can find a good used car for that price, then so can I. At least I have some sense of knowing how to look and what to watch out for. This was not competitive. It was more like a personal challenge to see just how much car I could actually get for that amount of money. I never said a word at the time, but we've laughed about it since. You'll understand why a little later.

Armed with my favorite car-buying magazine, I began searching the web for cars in my area that fit my criteria. My criteria were not very sophisticated--they were: the final cost, including all taxes, tags, sellers fee--everything, had to come in under $4000. The car had to be one of those listed in my book under the category "CR Best Bet". That would mean that if under my price range I chose the right year, make and model according to their reports, the car should run reliably. It shouldn't require a lot of extra maintenance outside of the normal costs of keeping a car in good running order. The 1999 Ford Escort was the car that fit. A 1999 Ford Escort…not what my heart was yearning for, I must admit. Even the name seemed uninspiring and, well, practical.

But the thought seemed to stick. No matter what other car I tried to consider, the thought that I should look at a Ford Escort would not leave me. Until that moment I could not recall having ever SEEN a Ford Escort on the road. The moment I began thinking about it, suddenly they were everywhere. Has that ever happened to you? I could not figure out why I hadn't noticed them before. Doesn't this sound like the beginning of one of those sweet love stories where the guy (or girl) who has been gazing longingly toward the model or hero, suddenly realizes that this person who has been right next to them for most of their lives is exactly who they were meant to be with? Well, actually, it was a little like that.

I went to dealerships, both online and in person. I checked out used car lots and saw cars I would love to own and drive. But that sense inside that I was meant to be looking for a Ford Escort --would not go away. And I have learned through some rather painful experiences, that it's usually a good idea for me to heed that inner sense. Finally, after what seemed forever, I found it at a small dealership about 40 minutes from home. I called to make sure it was still available, and then drove there that evening to have a look.

The lot was one of those small, local ones that had been there for years and dealt in used cars.

As I turned off the main road into the lot I saw it. I knew that was the car I was going to buy. I still did all of the practical, sensible things that one should do when considering a used car (a little car lesson here!); I drove it to my own mechanic to have him check it out thoroughly. I gave it a really good test drive, and paid to have its history checked to make sure there was nothing covered up that I couldn't see.

Everything checked out. Actually, everything checked out except the price. The asking price was over my limit. Include all of the other fees and that put it even further out of reach. But I knew this was meant to be my car. So I told the dealer I was interested and asked what better offer he was willing to make. Most of us know he expected that question and that there is always an amount included in the original price for just this sort of 'haggling". It allows everyone to go away feeling they got a good deal, as I felt that day. At the end of the day, when I signed the purchase papers, the cost with all taxes and fees, was $3900.00.

In case you're wondering what kind of flaky person would go on a car hunting spree just because of a random phone conversation--especially when they already owned a perfectly good car -- it might be helpful to share how this all happened.

The reason was personal debt. I was facing a personal financial difficulty and I was tired of it running me. You know exactly what I'm talking about if you've ever carried debt. As long as I'm in debt, I'm not free. Every decision I make is with the full weight of the amount of my debt lying on my back and lurking close to every thought. A day had come, not long before this phone conversation, when I turned to God and told him what a burden all of this debt was to me. I understood and confessed that it was a burden of my own making, and accepted responsibility for it. I also knew that I had to accept responsibility for "undoing" what I had done, by making the paying of that debt my greatest priority. And it meant taking a clear, honest look at the decisions I had made that had led to this point in my life.

The conversation with my sister came right in the middle of all of this. Little did she know at the time that her conversation was used as a messenger to get me pointed in the right direction in the next step in my search for a debt free life.

At that time, I had a good car (that I was making payments on) with a high resale value. Selling it would help in several ways. I could save enough money from selling it to buy a car outright, and the rest could be applied to the debt. I could also begin applying the money from the monthly car payments to the debt. When we talked that day, I was just beginning to sort all of this out and to consider what car I needed to buy. So when my sister mentioned a car for under $4000--I went for it! What I found out more than a year later was that she actually said that she would look for a car under $6000! My "mishearing" gave me $2000 more to apply to that debt.

This is not the end of the story. I'd like to tell you "the REST of the story", as Paul Harvey the radio commentator says, next time.

But at least know this until then. I have learned that "The promise is sure, He is well able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think."

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