From Five Minutes Frozen to Seeking the Light

Since I am visually impaired and can’t drive, I quite often find myself walking or riding my tricycle to work or the grocery store.  Due to the fact that I am out in the open, its important that I know the weather forecast.  Quite often, I look at the weather on my phone; I use an app from a local television station that shows the current radar and gives an hour-by-hour forecast.  So for example, if there will be a seventy-percent chance of rain at 3 p.m., I probably won’t be going out unless I have a ride. 

A few weeks ago, my domestic assistant was scheduled to work at my house, and her schedule for the day changed.  At first, I was concerned that this would throw off my day, but in the end, the schedule change was a good thing.  Severe weather was possible for our region later that day, and since she was now coming earlier to work, I knew I could run errands as soon as she left my house and then get back in time to hunker down if the weather deteriorated. 

As soon as the schedule allowed, I packed up my trike basket.  I needed to drop off a gift for someone, so along with my purse, prompter tablet, and lunch cooler, I made sure I had the gift bag and greeting card.  My basket was full, but I had a lot to get accomplished, and I knew I would feel relieved when everything was done and I could return home with a lighter load. 

Two hours later, I was tired but feeling fulfilled as I pulled into my garage and began to unload everything.  The gift bag was gone and the lunch cooler was empty; all that remained in the insolated bag was a few thawing ice packs.  I went into my home office with my tablet and purse, and immediately got to work on my computer.  I had been putting off upgrading my operating system, and I had a few hours carved out in case the downloads would take awhile.  Once I got the download process started, I went to YouTube and Facebook, seeking out some of the weather-related content I typically follow.  I’m a bit of a weather nerd.  Tornadoes and severe weather make me nervous when they’re happening, but I love learning about how storms come together and even seeing pictures and video of the clouds and sky.  It didn’t take me long to find a Facebook live that was going with local coverage; storms had already started to move into my area, and that was kind of surprising since it didn’t look overly threatening outside other than some light rain.  Occasionally, the live stream would cut out, so I filled the silence with music playing from my video display.  All the while, my computer continued to download the operating system. 

At one point, everything got quiet… so quiet I could hear the storm siren sounding outside.  My video display and Facebook live had both frozen up on their respective screens, and my computer had halted in its download at 85 percent.  I tried to bring up the radar on my phone, but since everything was frozen, I didn’t get very far.  Thanks to the storm siren, I knew there was a warning of some kind for my county, so I went to the living room to turn on the TV.  I had just hit the power button when everything in my office unfroze and I heard the Facebook livestream call out my home town and county specifically by name.  “If you live here, golf ball-sized hail is on the way for you.  This storm has already caused broken windows and other damage in surrounding communities, so take cover now.”

Much like my devices had frozen up, no doubt due to the impending storm, I found my body freezing and tensing up at the weatherman’s words.  Golf ball-sized hail?  How big was that again?  Over an inch, right?  Now I knew why the sirens had gone off; this seemed pretty serious. 

Last Spring, we had gotten a hail storm in my home town, and many plants were heavily damaged.  That hail hadn’t been that large, but even so, it had made a big statement.  This coming storm had the potential to be even bigger, and I was instantly nervous.  Since my TV was now blaring from the living room, I took a few moments to assess the coverage; according to the projected arrow coming out from the radar, the storm would be over my house in two minutes.  As if to confirm its approach, I heard a distant rumble of thunder and heavy raindrops or maybe even pea-sized hail began to clatter against the windows. 

Since I don’t have a basement, I didn’t want to chance anything; I closed myself in my interior master bedroom and clenched my phone tightly in my hand.  I was good and scared now, and I knew I needed a distraction.  Thankfully, a good friend answered when I called a few seconds later.  I asked her to tell me a story to hold my attention because all I could think about was the threat outside. 

My friend was amazing, speaking to me in a calm voice, launching into a silly little story.  But even though she was doing exactly as I had asked her to do, I couldn’t focus.  I heard the first hailstones hit the roof, and the sound was deafening.  I put my friend on speaker phone, because my fingers had begun to cramp around my phone because of my tight grip.  “Its okay,” my friend said, stopping in her story.  “I hear it now.  Yeah, its loud, but you’re going to be okay; I promise.”

I think something like a whimper or a squeal came from me when I heard a hailstone hit the side of the house, maybe even a window.  Why wasn’t the storm letting up?  I was no expert, but I didn’t think hailstorms were suppose to last this long. 

Finally, blessedly, the clatter on the roof lessened, and I drew in my first deep breath in several minutes.  I told my friend that I thought it was over, and I left the bedroom.  I went around the house, checking the windows, making sure nothing was leaking or broken.  Once the clouds began to clear a bit, I cautiously ventured outside, bending down to gather a few of the ice chunks that now dotted the lawn.  The hail was huge!  It was confirmation that everything I had heard while it was coming down had not been a figment of my imagination.  It had sounded like thousands of hammers, forcefully driving in nails or large rocks being slung at the roof and windows.  My Dutch friends might get this analogy when I compare the sound to a multitude of a thousand-pound klompen dancers in their wooden shoes, making my roof their stage.

As I gathered up enough hail to put in the freezer, I thought about the potential damage outside.  I had no way of knowing if the roof was okay or if there were dents in the siding, but I knew time would reveal the outcome.  Hail like that would leave an impact, and there would be no doubt as to the cause. 

It got me thinking about the past two years of my life.  Circumstances have certainly left me feeling a bit dented and trampled, much like being under that hailstorm.  But unlike the hailstorm when the weatherman’s voice had cut in to warn me, I had no preparation for the catastrophes that would slam into my personal life. 

I know I have not posted here very much over the past few years, but if you know me personally, you might have an inclination of what I have been through: losing a dear loved one, health concerns, significant changes at work and ministry, and fractures within long-term relationships.  I don’t have physical marks that show the damage, but I do feel like I’ve been tossed around by a storm or two, trampled and clobbered by the hailstones of life.  My hair has thinned, probably due to stress.  I am tired and weak.  My health has improved, but sometimes stress and anxiety bring symptoms to the forefront.  Sometimes, if I’m being honest, I just want to give up because I don’t feel like I have the strength to continue. 

It has been two long years since Covid-19 changed everything and my world started spinning chaotically.  I know many of you can relate to this because almost everyone I’ve talked to has had a story to recount of some struggle they have endured over the past few years. It’s similar to the aftermath of the hailstorm; almost everyone I’ve talked to in my local area can tell me where they were and what they were doing when the storm hit and the damage that came from it. We are weary of the struggle, and much like enduring the hailstorm in my bedroom, we wonder how much longer the pain will rage over us. 

When I looked at my video display after the hailstorm, I took note of the storm’s duration; the camera recorded the hail for just over five minutes.  I couldn’t believe it!  Usually, five minutes doesn’t feel like an eternity.  It’s the length of a commercial break, listening to a song, reading a few pages in a book, or the time it takes to get across town when I have a ride.

I have wondered what those five minutes felt like for my friend on the phone that day.  It always seems like the wait is longer when you’re the one directly enduring it.  To her, it probably felt like five minutes, but for me, it felt like an hour or perhaps even longer.  Hope seemed so far away, and the wait seemed endless.  In those five minutes, I was frozen; I couldn’t think or even pray.  The comparison to the last two years is so similar that I found myself desperate for relief.  There’s nothing quite like golf ball-sized hail to rattle you enough to break through the numbing chill, even as shards of ice rain down from the sky. 

I have known for some time now that new beginnings are right on the horizon.  I have already caught a few glimpses of this hope on the way, and I long to reach toward the light instead of dwelling in the storm.  The weight has been too much to carry on my own, and I need to relinquish a great deal of my hard-headed and hard-hearted independence in order to let God in.  He has the strength and endurance to carry me through any storms that might be looming on the horizon.  And although I’ve been through a lot the past few years, I know He has faithfully carried me and my load as I have tried to forge ahead on my own.

Its kind of like my packed trike basket earlier that day of the hailstorm.  Even though my lunch bag had been emptied, it still took up space behind me.  So many times I have run errands and wondered if I can trust that anything I leave in my trike basket will stay there.  The only way I can be sure my things will stay secure is if I take everything out of the basket and carry it with me into each store and business along the way.  I realized then that I needed a new backpack, and when I saw an insulated cooler backpack online, I knew it was just the thing I needed. 

But this isn’t just any old cooler backpack; it is bedazzled with sunflowers!  I love the reminder of the sunflowers, knowing that these blooms are created to seek out the light of the sun as they grow each day.  The sunflowers are always looking toward the light until they grow heavy enough to be harvested and they can no longer turn to face the sun. 

As I left for work this week, I had to smile as I strapped the sunflower cooler to my back.  I could feel the little burst of energy that came over me as I started up the first hill on my trike.  I didn’t have to burden my trike basket with excess baggage any longer when I could simply carry my light-weight lunch on my back.  And the sunflowers were there to remind me to look to the light and the blooming and flourishing that will one day come if I do not lose hope.  For as the scriptures say, His burden is light, and I’m living in that promise.