Some storms need more than an umbrella

I took one more peek at the radar on my phone. The two storm cells I was watching looked to split Hillsboro, one to the north and one to the south. My prediction, based on the recent weather pattern, was that Hillsboro would remain dry, even though I could hear the occasional rumble of thunder.

Grabbing my plate of seasoned pork chops, I headed to my grill. Not even a minute after the meat started sizzling, thunder crashed overhead and the heavens opened in spectacular fashion.

The current dilemma–grilling meat in a downpour–was a new one for me. I went in search of an umbrella so I could finish grilling. My back got soaked as I juggled the umbrella, flipping meat and holding the grill lid open at the smallest angle I could manage. Despite the unexpected conditions, I got the job done.

How is it, I wondered, that I could so easily go with the flow in the middle of this unexpected circumstance, but have found myself drowning in the changes and challenges of the last couple years?

Wouldn’t the same ability to adapt and find an umbrella also apply in larger life situations?

My prediction would be that yes, it would. But, as evident from my soggy grilling experience, my predictions aren’t always right.

There have been so many transitions of late that it feels like I’m not handling anything well. Relationships have shifted, and sadly, some have been lost…at least for now. We moved from a neighborhood and house I loved to a new neighborhood and a new house with an overwhelming amount of projects. Dear friends that felt like answers to years of prayer suddenly moved to a new state. We were forced to make hard decisions about church and ended up doing something new, disappointing many. More friends moved, adding to the upheaval.

We’ve had many unexpected storms and I’m struggling to not only accept a new normal, but to simply FIND one. A single umbrella just isn’t cutting it.

And maybe right there is the difference. When the rain came while I was grilling, it was one moment. The meat would either cook or it wouldn’t. We would either eat pork chops or frozen pizza. Once supper was over, the challenge was, too.

But with all those big life adjustments–some we chose, most we didn’t–the whole visual landscape suddenly shifted. We couldn’t deal with one thing at a time. Rather than a sudden summer downpour, life has been more like continual blizzards.

The layers just keep piling on and up.  

For any of you “Little House on the Prairie” fans, it reminds me of the book “The Long Winter.” I’ve always wanted to see a blizzard that would pile snow to the rooftop like author Laura Ingalls Wilder describes. I just didn’t expect the snow to pile to the roof in a symbolic way.

That book also describes the fight the Ingalls family faced to survive that hard winter of 1880-81. The trains stopped, so no new supplies made it to the western settlers. Coal ran out. Food ran out. And the snow kept coming.

Pa made tunnels through the snow depths from house to barn. The family twisted straw to burn. And the snow kept coming.

Finally, just when you think the family will surely starve because the wheat needed for bread had dwindled to nothing, the spring wind blows. Eventually the snow melts and the trains bring supplies. The family would survive after all.

Despite the current life-sized snow piles, I’m convinced our family will survive, too, along with any others who might also find themselves in a winter season during the middle of summer. Every once in awhile I think I feel a warm spring breeze on my face. It doesn’t last long before another icy storm blows through. But someday the warmth will stay and the season will change.

How do I know? Because for 35 years I have experienced literal season changes. Summer, fall, winter, spring. Summer, fall, winter, spring. The season lengths vary year to year, but the next one always comes.

The winter may be long. It may be cold. The snow may continue to pile faster than it can be shoveled. Maybe all that can be done for now is to dig a tunnel from here to there–but at least the wind is off my face.

In the meantime, even as I hold a shovel in my hand, I will remember that an umbrella will eventually suffice.

Spring is coming.

Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing visit her blog, malindajust.com.