Tuesday, February 4, 2014

And the snow came down...

This winter has perhaps been the coldest, most brutal I have ever experienced here in the south.  I have worn gloves more times in the past two months than I have in the past five years.  I have discovered the value of the heated steering wheel feature in my car.  Even the wild life in my yard realizes the depths of our cold... I watched a squirrel remove the cotton stuffing from a chair cushion on my back deck, filling his cheeks with it, and scurrying off to pad his nest.

And so, last week, when the forecast called for bitter cold and a stretch of a few days without peaking above freezing, I think we all collectively rolled our eyes and sighed heavily.  We southerners are not made for this sort of thing.  And to add insult to injury, the forecast called for snow in the southernmost regions of our state with a mere dusting here.  

"Good," I thought as I watched the weather man show off his fancy computer generated model of accumulation predictions.  "They can have the snow.  I don't want any of it."

While regions south of here cancelled school, we woke up and went about our normal routines on Tuesday morning with the weather man reiterating his forecast of a light dusting of snow with little to no accumulation.  Around 9:30 that morning, I sat writing out a shopping list for an afternoon Publix trip, and I noticed the little flakes beginning to fall.  Within thirty minutes, I stood at the window with my head cocked to the side wondering if my eyes were deceiving me.  Not only was our dusting accumulating, it was accumulating on the streets and concrete.  

The school put out the call by 10:15 for early dismissal at noon, a time they quickly bumped up to 11:30 as we all watched, puzzled, the snow sticking to everything it touched and the number of flakes falling multiplying exponentially.  

Our region was perplexed, completely caught off guard, and unprepared for what would become an infamous winter storm.  

Bus routes were cancelled leaving thousands of children at school waiting on someone to pick them up.  The busy downtown area and surrounding outskirts of Birmingham were a gridlock as thousands of people tried to get home.  News anchors were perplexed, and lots of them were a part of the madness on the streets, broadcasting live from their positions all over town.  People took to Facebook for all kinds of reasons, some trying to find rides for their loved ones trapped by the snow and ice, some complaining and blaming and dissatisfied with the state of unpreparedness.  Our local meteorologists were slightly embarrassed.  

But in the midst of the literal paralysis of our region, there is much to learn.  

We, collectively as entitled Americans, have gotten used to fancy weather models and computer generated forecasts.  We have apps on our phones that can give us predictions of what our day will look like down to the very hour.  We can view radar in the click of a link.  And we feel that the weather gods, if I may be so bold as to name them that, those who study and analyze and report data and information to us and receive a paycheck for those duties... that said weather gods feed us the right forecast every time.  And when things don't go as we've been told they will, someone is to blame.

Now, I'm not a big political person, but I love what our governor said about the event of Tuesday, January 28th.  He reminded us that "only God knew what would happen" that day.  How simplistically refreshing.  And that is precisely what I hope many will learn from the string of events of the unexpected snow day in Alabama.

I remember a time when I accepted science as fact.  In school, I memorized laws and rules and equations, and I accepted them as truth.  But what those textbook definitions and explanations don't factor in is reality, the unexpected, unanticipated.  When I listened to a weather man on a local station here explain that it has never snowed in our region with this low of a temperature, I thought to myself, "Fascinating."  All the conditions have to properly align for it to snow in Alabama, and they weren't lined up in the way that science says is necessary to produce snow, and so we were caught off guard.  Because in science, some things don't follow the expected course.  Not everything in nature follows the rules all the time.  

I think back to a phone call during my mother's battle with cancer, a time in which I learned painfully that science is not exact.  My mother's cancer had spread to her liver despite the fact that she was on a non-chemo medication to basically starve out her disease.  I remember being angry... angry at the doctor because how could he have not anticipated this, and angry at the medicine that was supposed to work with data and research and trials backing up its efficiency.  Someone was to blame, and they should pay, because now that the cancer was in her liver, she was terminal.  And it had to be someone's fault, someone's mistake, something that we could have and should have controlled.

I had a lot to learn.  I listened as my father told me that, for some reason, my mother's cancer didn't react to the treatment in the way that the majority of patients reacted.  She was in that minority of unpredictability.  Her cancer did not respond in the same pattern as the majority of other patients with the very same type of cancer as hers.  And the doctors didn't know why.  

Oh.  I didn't realize that was an option with all the millions of dollars poured over research and computers and modern technology.  I just didn't take into account that there would still be the huge surprising unknowns, and that the unknown would be affecting my life in such a real way.  Like my mom's cancer and ultimately the loss of her life.

Like that snow storm.  The continuous sheet of unexpected ice over every paved surface.  The families separated, parents sleeping in churches and grocery stores and kids sleeping on the floor of their school library.  Waking up on Wednesday morning and looking over the contents of the pantry and fridge and getting creative because you won't be making it to the store.  Schools being closed for three days.  Everything was completely thrown off by the unexpected.  And there was nothing anyone could do about it.  You could either accept it or complain about it.  

Here's the thing about when good people, people with character and belief in something bigger than themselves, are met with the unexpected.  They do what they need to do without any thought.  They are of service to the people in need around them.  They take care of the necessary and don't waste time on the things they can't change.  They look around and say, "What can we do to make this better?" 

I saw that in my mother when she got the news that her cancer had spread.  I remember her voice on the other end of the line, "This is not good news, but I don't want you to worry about me.  I'm going to be okay."  Because, truth is, someone without faith would say she's not okay, she died.  But she knew that no matter what came her way, God would equip her with what she needed to make it through it.  And He did.  He did that for us all.  I look back and think of days and experiences and I know in my heart it was Him who carried me through it... I would never have been able to make it through so many of those painful experiences without His presence.  

And that's just it.  A life of faith in God is not perfect.  It is still a victim of the unexpected storms that life throws our way.  But,if in the midst of any situation of life we can stop and say, "I'm going to be okay.  Because of God's strength and mercy, I will be okay," I think we've begun to comprehend what living this life is all about.  And I say begun to comprehend because I don't think we can ever fully arrive at a complete understanding of life until our life has ended.  So much simply doesn't make sense here on earth.  And that's okay, too.  I don't have to get it all to know that I will be okay.

I'm a living breathing testimony to the fact that His peace is not only available to the perfect, shiny, church-going Christians that seem to have all the answers and appear to be more worthy.  It's available to anyone who wants to believe and embrace it.  It's a choice, one you have to make every single day.  Some days, I choose wisely to believe that He can give me whatever I need to make it through the trials of my day.  Other days, the not so valiant ones, I choose to try to tackle things myself by planning and controlling and worrying.  It's no surprise which days turn out the best for this imperfect and undeserving soul.

Choose to have faith in Him that He will carry you through whether it be a snowstorm, cancer, divorce, financial stress, disappointment, whatever the problem may be.  He is big enough.  

1 comment:

Erika Kaplan said...

I just finished the book mom recommended/lent me. It's called A Higher Court, a fictional story (or is it? :) ) about a trial determining if God is real or not. It was interesting. A lot like you just said, things happen, and we can chose to take comfort in the peace God gives, or we can deny his existence.