Inside the Storm

21 03 2011

After hearing the forecast, my anxiety subsided a bit as I anticipated the evening drive to McHenry, Maryland and our annual Youth Ski Retreat – just scattered snow showers in the higher elevations. However, just past Cumberland, Maryland, we hit one of those higher elevation snow showers…a sustained snow shower…a sustained snow shower in the dark. The wind blew snow across unfamiliar roads, leaving just one lane visible on West-bound I-68. The snow was relentless and the white crystals that normally falls soft and quiet, seemed angry this night. After several “heart-in-my-throat” moments, the exit toward Wisp Ski Resort was in sight. As I slowed to turn onto the exit, my grip loosened from the indentations I had created and my knuckles regained their natural color. The slowing also revealed what my anxiety and fear had kept me from observing – the interstate speed I maintained fed the perception of an angry storm. With the slowing, the snow blew across the road gentler…softer – the knot in my stomach loosened. My body began to relax. But the adventure wasn’t over.

The lights of Wisp’s Ski slopes illuminated like white brush strokes on the mountainside. Passing the main lodge, I knew we had just one more hill to climb. (I soon was reminded that we were in the mountains of Maryland.) With an adult, five teenagers, and our luggage, our van began the ascent…up the “hill”. Even with gearing down, my wheels could not maintain traction and we slowed to a stop…half way up “the mountain”. A kind person, on their way down, stopped and asked if I needed help. Inside I was saying, “You have no idea,” but out of my mouth came a prideful, “We’re okay.” Thankfully, God is good…looking beyond my pride to the care of my precious teenage cargo, somehow the van wheels found a patch of clear pavement and soon we found ourselves unloading our van at our weekend home.

Our house over looked Deep Creek Lake. From past retreats, I remembered the spectacular views and the sunrise show through the huge living room windows. It was this vista and show I anticipated as I arose before dawn. With camera on my tripod and pre-dawn excitement, I gazed out the window…gray haze instead of fire lit morning skies. With snow still blowing, even the lake below was obscured. Snow and haze had settled in for the weekend. It was not until we had said goodbye to our retreat house for another year that the sun made an appearance.

It’s peculiar – a gift – what awakens us to God’s voice. As we headed down the mountain, snow-blanketed creation was bathed in brilliant sunlight…beautiful! From the back seat of the van, I heard the voice of God – actually it was one of our youth, but the Spirit’s vibrations were in the words that were spoken: “The snow is so great. One flake landed on my hand yesterday and I could see its design. It wasn’t perfect but I could see its pattern. It’s amazing that each snowflake is different.”  She paused, “Look at all the snow on the ground. That’s pretty awesome of God.”

A flash of truth hit me. There I was, in the storm – raging snow, darkness, limited vision, steep mountains, obscured vistas, fear, and anxiety. And now, when I am leaving, my eyes were opened to see the beauty of what happened in the storm. Perfect flakes lying together with imperfect flakes…beautiful – covering the ground, the trees, the rocks…and now blanketing my own soul.

We all experience storms – in relationships, in faith, in health, in finances, in life experiences. What’s so hard about being in the midst of the storm – the wind blowing, snow whirling, darkness closing, limited vision, huge mountains – is that it’s hard to see beyond the immediate. We believe if we go faster we can get through the storm sooner or escape it altogether. Too often, as we move faster, we find the storm rages even harder against us. We forget that slowing down my help us see clearer. We forget that we can say “yes” to help that presents itself. Unfamiliar paths and situations make us uncomfortable so we try to tighten our control on life. We become more rigid and our senses develop tunnel vision; disappointments born from unmet expectations blind us from the growth occurring within the haze we find ourselves.

The good news is we are not alone in the storms of life. God promises to never leave us…in the haze…in the darkness…even when we can’t see God because of the storm.

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