Monthly Archives: November 2014

Storm Warnings

Last week I had a big “Oops!” moment.

Our long, balmy fall was deceptive. It was a lingering Indian summer with no end in sight, and the flies weren’t even trying to get inside!

Although we had a general forecast of snow last Thursday, I was caught off guard, thinking it would be mostly rain and a lighter storm.  WRONG – we got 8+ inches of heavy snow in less than 36 hours with plunging temperatures down into the single digits! Result: Terrible road conditions, over 200 slide-offs and crashes. Plus I was stuck inside from Wednesday until Saturday afternoon, eating food from my freezer and pantry, not wanting to risk injury to myself, others, or my paid-for car. Now we have news of the horrendous amounts of snow near the Great Lakes (over 6′ in two days in many places) with a total ban on travel.

Winter on West 21st Street, New York Courtesy Beyond My Ken, Wikipedia Commons

Winter on West 21st Street, New York
Courtesy Beyond My Ken, Wikipedia Commons

So what was the problem? I had blithely put off my regular grocery shopping so I was caught without my usual supply of fresh produce and dairy. Even though eating from my well-stocked freezer and pantry was a far cry from starvation, I still felt foolish and deprived. I could easily have gone out on Wednesday and enjoyed fresh broccoli, salad, pears, and yogurt instead of freeze-dried green beans, dehydrated apples, and cocoa from powdered milk (ugh).

The stress I felt was much more symbolic than real, and I sensed a deeper principle at work. How ready am I for the bigger storms of life? I thought about a friend who’d endured a power failure for two weeks one winter while her husband was in school and she had three little children at home. Their fireplace and food storage really helped, but boredom, close quarters, and stress took their toll.

Their emergency came without warning. But many do provide a window to prepare. Are we heeding the examples of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy that were so devastating? We are warned that the Ebola virus may come here and we might well need to self-quarantine. Any disruption in our food distribution system would clear grocery store shelves within days. We could experience weeks or months of “hyperinflation” that would send prices skyrocketing. So if we’re warned, we have less excuse for not preparing. While we can’t foresee every emergency nor will there always be a warning, we can do a lot to soften the impact of those that do come. Believe me, I was saying all this to myself and more.

If you want more information on preparing for emergencies, check out these sites and ideas:

  • LDS Provident Living
  • FEMA
  • Take a checkbook to Costco or WINCO and stock up –  and don’t forget water.
  • If you’re more ambitious, learn to can and dehydrate your favorite foods.

Finally, the skies cleared, the sun came out and I dared venture out on the melting ice and snow. I cautiously toodled off to Fred Meyer and stocked up, so grateful for the abundance of nature and our clean, spacious stores. Driving home a favorite hymn came on the radio that totally mirrored my mood and renewed my faith:

This Is My Father’s World
(YouTube/user/The Hymns of Praise)

My final takeaway: Tackle the tendency to worry and act from fear. God provides peace and guidance:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of 
power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy1:7)

The more I think about being prepared, the more I realized that acquiring the habit of prayer and then heeding the subtle answers that come is perhaps the very best item in our spiritual backpack.

The Cycle of Life and Death

Recently I visited with a friend at church who’s going through the “empty-nest syndrome” since her two oldest children went off to college this fall. Her pain was palpable. I tried to console her with prospects of her girls’ future achievements out in the world and grandchildren to come, but I came away feeling that I hadn’t been very successful.

Sitting in my living room last night looking at the twilight landscape, I saw nothing left but dead leaves hanging dejectedly from the “wall of green” shrubbery that I’d enjoyed all summer. I grieved for that lush, living companion that’s now deader “than a door nail”! (Anyone know where that saying came from?) I remembered how much I miss my own children when they were little, making up original songs and building elaborate structures from Lego’s. I miss my grandkids saying cute three-year-old things now that they’re teenagers. I miss Iowa. I miss New Hampshire. I miss my relatives who’ve gone to their eternal reward.

Death and loss seem to be ever present. This time of year, it can seem pretty bleak – cold rain, gray days, waning energy as winter comes to claim her own. In a book I love, Father Fox’s Penny Rhymes, the mother fox stands gazing out at the relentless rain while her many children whine and cry around her. She moans:

The rain falls down
The wind blows up:
I’ve spent all the pennies
In my old tin cup.

Father Fox's Pennyrhymes  By Clyde Watson Courtesy

Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes
By Clyde Watson

I know just how she felt. Don’t we all have those hopeless moments? I decided my friend just needed her feelings acknowledged and understood. They’ll evolve in their own time, just as mine always do.

As I sat and reflected, suddenly the moon rose behind those stark branches, full and luminous – promising a new perspective and new life. I know my friend will find her own comfort, and I do enjoy each stage of life with my children and grandchildren. I wouldn’t really want them to stand still.

This full moon is a magical reminder that life is not all loss, that new horizons and new birth are around the corner for all of us.

Fall Moon by the Author

Fall Moon by the Author

A Deeper Surrender 3 – Stroke and Glide

I grew up across the street from a huge city swimming pool, so I took a lot of swim lessons. For years, though, I was afraid to spend much time underwater. Treading water for long periods of time was a favorite assignment of my teachers. I frantically paddled hard enough to always keep my head above water, quickly becoming exhausted. Ditto with swimming laps. So I was never completely at home in the water, unlike many of my friends who swam like fish. Was I just a weakling or did they know something I didn’t?

Living in New Hampshire at the foot of Highland Lake, I would swim in the clear, shallow water regularly. It was so peaceful that I let go of my anxiety, spending more and more time gliding through the water with my head and face below the surface. I got lost in limbo between earth, water, and sky, a welcome meditation. Later, several of us would swim after dark in remote Center Pond. I’d picture creatures lurking below the surface waiting to grab me and pull me down to unspeakable depths. But then I’d look up at the stars and the silent pine trees ringing the shore and lose myself again in that magical limbo world.

Finally, when I was teaching my daycare kiddies to swim, a professional swim teacher turned on the final light bulb. We all float and can just fully relax in the water; it’s just that most of us only reach that point when we’re completely underwater! Once we accept that, we can swim for hours if need be. Just try to float lower in the water than your body naturally wants to go – you can’t do it without real effort. The trick is to pair breathing in with a swim stroke that lifts our heads above water, then submerge, find our flotation point, and fully relax while we glide and exhale slowly through our noses.

The glide portion lasts two or three times longer than the stroke. Oddly, until we know better, we focus on the stroke since it’s the action part and necessary for moving forward. But as I mastered this swim style, I also came to appreciate the power of the glide. If I fully relaxed in the water, trusted the power of the previous stroke, and exhaled in a long, controlled breath, I could go on and on. And I found that I never sank very far in the water, no matter how much I relaxed. When I moved into an apartment complex with a large indoor pool, I could swim laps for surprising distances, racking up a half mile, then a mile. It was liberating and exhilarating to overcome those childhood fears and limitations.

I find that relating to my emotional, creative, and spiritual highs and lows is a lot like swimming laps. I appreciate the power of the glide here as well. The rest and reflection that my burned-out body force on me bear great fruit, perhaps as great as my bursts of energy and productivity. I sit in my comfortable chair, watching flocks of birds at my feeder, the “wall of green” beyond my patio undulating in the breeze, and new insights come to me that fuel the next “stroke” or push in life. And I find that the Lord never lets me sink below my spiritual “flotation” point as long as I’m truly reaching for Him.

I recently hit an emotional wall, feeling overly isolated, frustrated, and creatively constrained. But instead of frantically “swimming” against this downward force, I let myself glide through the underwater of my soul, checking out what I was really feeling and why, as well as what my many options for response were. I received insightful advice, solved a persistent sign-in problem on a web forum for like-minded people, and read a Guideposts story about its publisher’s stack of prayer requests that he turns to in odd moments – a good example of how I could serve even in tired moments. Doors started to open in my soul and in my life.

Living from my spiritual and creative “flotation point” has been both empowering and humbling. It’s allowed God into my soul. Next time you find yourself in a pickle, try a long glide under your conscious mind and see what surfaces.