Friday, June 13, 2008

What the Storm Taught Me

Some time ago, I fell ill, and I missed work and school. I moped on the couch all day, wallowing in my misery. One of those nights, Mike came home from work, made himself dinner, and was preparing for his first post-wedding boys'-night with his dad and brother.

"It's fine," I moaned. "Just go. I'll be fine."

"You sure?" he smiled.

"Yes, of course. I love you."

And he walked out the door! What?! Clearly, my words were a cry for help, a desperate attempt for him to read my mind and volunteer to stay and take care of his ailing young wife. He did not read my mind, and, in this apartment, that is unforgivable.

Two nights ago, I was feeling a bit bummed. I'd dropped Mom off at the airport that morning, and I missed her already. The only thing that cheered me was getting some veg-out time with Mike. When he got home, I started to brainstorm some plans, but he reminded me that he had plans (which he'd told me days before and the night before) to go see a movie with his dad and brother.

Well, I've been in a fragile state lately for no good reason, and I started to cry. How could he leave me in my (apparent) hour of need? What terrible timing! Why didn't I remember that he was going out so I could have spent the whole day feeling sorry for myself instead of being so suddenly devastated? (See? Fragile.)

I plop onto the couch to plot my solo plans for the evening. Suddenly, the sky is black. The wind is screaming. Begrudgingly, I go out to the car to roll up my cracked windows. I skip out in some flip-flops and stand outside near our door as I watched the clouds roll in. I can hear the rain approaching, and, suddenly, I'm younger and standing on our porch in Nebraska, holding our cat that I've oh-so valiantly saved from the outdoors, feeling the hot wind and watching the tree turn brighter against the darkening sky.

Back inside, the power blows. There is a fury of wind outside now, and I'm desperately searching for the new ("genius!" I'd told myself) spot of the matches. A few toe-stubs later, candles are lit, and I wait for the lights to return.

The lights did not return. Mike, who'd only experienced the storm as a nice sound effect in his movie, came home to find me sitting next to a group of candles, reading a magazine with squinted eyes.

"Hey," he said sheepishly.

Our entire apartment is electric, which means no air conditioning in the week of record-breaking heat, no hot water for oatmeal, no wireless, no cell service, no hot water for showers, and certainly no fridge or freezer. Mike went to bed that night so hot that he tried sleeping on the bathroom tile and sprawled in the bedroom floor before creepily dragging himself from the floor to the bed, horror movie style, in the early morning hours.

I didn't sleep that night either, but not for the heat. I couldn't stop thinking about our food. Our fridge is usually lacking, but Mom had just visited, and I didn't want her to think that we're starving, so I packed it with all the wonderful dishes I was going to make her. There it all sat, warming away. We had so much money sitting in our fridge, wasting away.

I thought of the apricot preserves purchase I'd indulged in, the first whole gallon of milk we'd bought, the Omaha Steaks order in the freezer. I tried to console myself with the fact that some people don't have ANY food, but that just made the waste seem so much worse. I had bad dreams about food, and it wasn't helped when I opened my eyes to the aforementioned creepy crawl of 4 AM Mike.

The next morning, an exhausted Mike had a plan for the shower that was sure to be freezing.

"Okay, we'll scrub with soap outside the shower, then hop in and rinse off," he said conspiratorially. It didn't sound like a good idea to me. "Come on," he said. So we soaped away, and the cold loofah made me more miserable than I'd just been.

"It's not foaming," I spat, scrubbing until my thighs turned bright red.

"Okay, go go go!" Mike cried, and he cranked the shower on and in we went, laughing.

The water was hot. It was burning almost. The hot water from the evening before hadn't cooled, and it was the best (ten-second) shower I'd ever had. When we cracked open the freezer, everything was still rock-solid. We packed it in a cooler to take to his parents house. On the way, we stopped at Wawa to grab breakfast. We mulled over breakfast sandwiches and donuts and hugged good-bye as we went our separate ways for the day.

We felt like such a team, and it was a wonderful thing to come out of it. (So is the renter's insurance check we're getting for our spoiled food! Thanks, USAA!) The power came on a few minutes before I got home from work.

When I was laying awake that night, I watched what was left of the storm outside my window. I'd ran my fingernails lightly over Mike's back and blown through pressed teeth, up and down, hoping to cool him off. Somehow, it made me miss a world where heaven was winning a coin flip with David and being the first to lay my toasted self on Mom and Dad's bed so Mom could gently put aloe vera on my back as she blew lightly up and down my spine. I missed listening to the storms from my bed, watching Oliver opens his eyes lazily each time thunder cracked; his casual attitude relaxed me, even in my later high school years.

Mostly, I thought about the storms of my life, the ones I find myself in now. Mike said before falling asleep that some author talks about how scary and humbling storms were before technology, how close to God they must have made people feel.

"Thunder," he said, "must have seemed like the voice of God."

Today, we're constantly predicting storms. We can see them coming on the radar, and broadcasters in suits tell us when to bring an umbrella. They tell us of the storm and its patterns: winds, lulls, lightning, thunder, intensity and length. Still, when we're in the midst of those ingredients — the blinding rain, the roaring wind, and the crackling thunder — all those facts and predictions don't matter much, do they?

I'm trying to remind myself of this as we face a seeming insurmountable task of fundraising. We knew it would be difficult, but suddenly we're feeling a bit lost, desperately trying to see the challenge at hand through the powerful eyes of our God who sees no impossibilities. We're in the storm, and I feel like I can't find my umbrella. I've been thinking about James 1, and how wisdom comes in abundance to those who ask in righteousness, and I'm comforted.

Head knowledge doesn't count, so trust Me, God says. without restrictions. Because, you know what, the weathermen always gets it wrong anyway.