“I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory” (1 Peter 1:7)
These snowstorms have challenged the people of our county. Its boundaries climb up toward the Cumberland Plateau. Often school is cancelled because snow falls on up the mountain, while roads and yards are clear in the mid and western county ends. Nine days ago, the ice came – from west to east – and in-between – houses were without electricity. The interstate was shut down at one point. The road up our little part of the mountain was closed.
We were fortunate – somehow, our little in-between space didn’t lose electricity. The propane man filled our tank at 6 p.m. before the ice storm came. (We had ordered it a few days before, and it had run out 2 p.m. the day he came). We experienced moments of cracking, popping and flickering systems – but no outages. Our birch split down the middle from the top halfway down. The coyotes came close, too, yipping, showing themselves around the edges of home.
A state of emergency was declared in the eastern county town. It looked like a war zone – power poles and lines down, trees split, roofs on buildings leaking, caving in – interstate and main roads shut off. I’ve heard resourceful stories of women cooking dinner on warming plates, sleeping under seven blankets to keep warm. One family drove over an hour away to buy a generator, so they could have a bit of light, heat – and a stove to cook on and be home.
One friend described the night after the ice came – loud popping, cracking – and trees just falling, crashing to the ground loud in the quiet, icy, white dark.
Another described her husband going in to work. Because the electricity was out, the sump-pump didn’t work – and water created havoc in a storage room while roofs leaked and awnings crashed due to the weight of the ice and rapid water melting.
The road up to our mountain shut down again. On Friday, the eastern end of the county still didn’t have electricity, though from my house, to the court house, to the university to the west end of the county, the snow had melted, back streets just had ice remnants in shady areas.
Listening to the telling of it, of the can-do, the taking-in-stride – the hope and faith of lives choosing to live full instead of empty – these women of our county exhibited not just the American spirit – but the grace of Christ evident in their walk and talk.
These women found it – the treasure in the storm. God put it there – that treasure.
Ann Voskamp said in One Thousand Gifts, “Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.”
Besides resourcefulness and grace, I heard stories of family being stuck together by this ice – and making the most of it. We were one of those families. One of the treasures in the midst of these storms was time – all the time to love and not be rushed.
One son and his fiance brought their two puppies and stayed for the few days they didn’t have electricity. We had Zuppa Toscana soup on the stove, warm scones – and hot chocolate (blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, carrots and broccoli, too – but not in the hot chocolate), coffee or Swiss Apple Tea with honey. This boy and his sweet fiance – they still managed to get out in the icy ice and snowy cold to go to work. When I popped into the coffee shop where another son works, his manager told me my son was one of the few who managed to make it in for every shift when others couldn’t. It was a sweet thing, to be able to savor these boys grown into men, taking care of business in the midst of these storms.
We made it down the mountain for a pancake breakfast with friends. We passed phones around taking the 5 Love Language Test. I discovered that the youngest, whose love language had always been a mystery to me, was a Quality Time/Physical Touch love language, while my 16 year old was the same (Physical Touch not a surprise, but Quality Time took me by surprise). The Quality Time diagnosis explained the feeling of relief I felt from the boys since I stopped working outside the family.
There’s been a lot of, “I just want you to know I’m using my quality time to . . . . ” – and a lot more smiles from these boys. I have a God-designed excuse now to give hugs, rub arms, scratch backs, too.
The youngest, he asked, “Mama, wanna make me some Hot Chocolate?”
“For a snow man,” I countered. Smirking, he brought me a miniature snowman.
Smirking, I handed him a cup of Swiss Miss instant hot chocolate. What he really wanted was my special hot chocolate. Payment? – a snowman with a hat, scarf, carrot nose, arms and eyes.
There are pitfalls to negotiating with your children, but it does teach both of us that words do mean something.
He crafted a snowman with strawberry eyes, a carrot nose, scarf and fedora – and I poured him a cup of my special hot chocolate.
One night, he used his quality time and surprised me with a clean kitchen. What a beautiful hug! This son also proved that one out of five sons knows that a clean kitchen means an empty sink.
On the way to school in the mornings, one boy leads in The Lords Prayer and the other in the Psalm 23. Around the time of my last day of work, the words, “He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3),” stuck to me – like ice on the mountain this last week.
There was restoration to this soul of mine during last 9 days. Maybe some of the popping and cracking I heard was part of that restoration process. Gills Exposition of the Bible likens this process as follows: “he fetches it back again, relieves, refreshes, and comforts with the discoveries of his love, with the promises of his word, and with the consolations of his Spirit, and such like reviving cordials.”
God sent something precious in these storms, despite the devastation, the challenges, the hardships. He included incredibly valuable treasures for each of us within the storm. Did you find yours?