In the hours before a hurricane strikes, life takes on a surreal quality. As you go about your normal routines (mostly), you begin to fool yourself into thinking that the weather forecasters are wrong. Surely, the storm can’t be that bad! The house is filled with light and warmth; jobs are completed with ease. And then, suddenly, everything changes. Life becomes fragmented.
How does one encapsulate the events of the past two week? Days filled with hardships and blessings? I must begin with thanksgiving. Our lives were spared; our home was spared; our community was spared. Thanks be to God!
I wish I could report that I handled each obstacle with grace and humor. But as is often the case, my family, the ones I love dearly, took the brunt of my frustrations. Harsh words often came more easily than kind words. I find in difficult circumstances that a settling-in period occurs. At first, I desperately try to hold onto my sense of control over life. When my attempts fail, frustration and anger become the default. Eventually, and only after failing miserably, I slowly begin to let go. Life, the way I want it to look, simply isn’t possible. My expectations lessen and I find I can appreciate the small blessings in the moment.
Stony Brook resumed classes two days after the hurricane. Sandy struck late in the day on Monday and we were back in the classroom on Wednesday—without power. At first, this really bothered me. It felt too soon, too rushed. Most public schools only returned to class this past Monday. However, as I greeted my smiling seventh graders and saw their joy in being with their friends and having some sense of normalcy in their lives, I knew the administration made the right call. We huddled close to the windows for natural light and shared our hurricane stories and read Treasure Island. What could be better? Suddenly having the administrative assistant to the Head of School walk into my classroom with a cup of hot coffee! Those small blessings carried me through.
On Sunday, November 4, our power was restored, six days after the storm. I can’t tell you how happy I was to walk into a brightly lit room and to feel heat radiating from the registers. All the jobs that were so tedious suddenly became much easier—like washing dishes.
A book I read earlier in the fall gave me some much-needed perspective last week. I’ve written before about my love for Margie Haack and for Ransom Fellowship. Margie’s memoir, The Exact Place (released in September), is the story of her growing up years in northern Minnesota (almost to the Canadian line) in a shotgun house with no power, no running water, and no indoor plumbing. In case you don’t know how cold it gets in the winter in northern Minnesota, try forty degrees below zero! In the evenings, as our family sat in our living room with the sheets hung in the door frames to keep the heat of the fireplace in the room, I reminded myself that for many people my living room is the size of their entire house! Even Margie’s house growing up! I highly recommend this book. I laughed out loud many times while reading it and loved the poignancy with which she shares about some of life’s hurts and hardships. This book would be a great Christmas gift for the readers in your life.
So now life returns to “normal”—except that this past Wednesday a Nor’easter arrived and brought with it a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow, and the Governor of New York has implemented gas rationing in light of long gas lines. Each day brings its own set of adventures and surprises. I do not go alone. The God of the universe has me in the palm of his hand and that is enough.