Monday, January 28, 2013

Storm Chaser

It never failed, every visit we made to my Grandma Mac's house in the summer was marked with at least one tornado warning.  It became a regular part of our routine in the evenings, my mom, grandma and I would gather a deck of cards, snacks and my grandma's ancient transistor radio and head to the basement.  That radio had the longest antennae I'd ever seen and tuning dials the size of soup can lids.  We would position it on the end of the pink vinyl tablecloth that covered what would transform into our "Gin Rummy Game Table".   The storm warnings would hum in the background as we snacked away and my mom and I would try our best to unsuccessfully outwit my Grandma at her favorite card game.

Tornado warnings in the Spring and Summer are routine occurrences in the Midwest.   They mark the change of season and remind us that as much as we may hate to admit it, that we are not ultimately in charge of our own destiny.  As I've travelled across the US, I am always surprised to hear people who live in other regions of the country talk about how fearful they are of tornado's.  When I was a recruiter early on in my corporate career, recent college grads would refuse a job opportunities in Central Illinois solely based upon the location our company.  That is some serious fear of the unknown.

It's not lost on me that I have never had first hand experience with the fury of a tornado, but I never remember feeling fearful during any of those close-encounter summers in my Grandma's basement.  Going down those stairs meant a party to me.  It was a promise of uninterrupted time with my family without the worry of going to bed on time.  My grandma's basement was the shelter from the storm.

Thirty years later, I have witnessed many storms.  Perhaps they haven't been category 5 hurricanes or raging floods that have required recovery efforts from FEMA, but I've witnessed some horrific tragedies.  God has allowed me to hold the hands of friends who have been raped, I've walked alongside survivors of domestic abuse, parents who have lost children to disease, co-workers who have been dealt a diagnosis of death.  I've held the faces of teens in my hands as they've shared stories of drug use and fear of pregnancy, I've held the shoulders of my own children as they cry in disappointment when things don't go as they had planned.

When we moved into our current home almost seven years ago, Scott and I promised God that we would open our door to anyone we could make at home here.  When we built it, we came into the kitchen and living areas and wrote scriptures on the studs and prayed as we walked through the rooms.   We asked God to use us for His needs and to allow us to serve whoever He brought our way.  We prayed that He would allow our home to be a storm shelter.

When I was little and would descend into my Grandma's basement I didn't walk down those stairs in fear,  my thoughts were not of the winds howling outside, but of the peace I felt in the safety of the storm shelter.  We each have the capacity to be that shelter for those around us being battered by the storms of life.  Whether you offer shelter with your words, your physical embrace or in your home, God calls us each to heed the storm warnings and not ignore the sirens that have been sounded by those closest to you.

None of us will escape this life without the pain of loss, disappointment or tragedy, however, the greatest reward of God's economy is to offer the blessing of sheltering friends or family through their darkest days.  It may be something as simple as holding an umbrella for a friend on a cloudy day or as intense as helping a loved one board up their emotional home in preparation for an impending hurricane.  Whatever storm watch God has called you to is a holy assignment that will undoubtedly reveal a magnificent rainbow when the sun shines again. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dog Days.

It seemed like the perfect gift, a cuddly little friend for my newly single Mom.  It was the ideal 'dog food commercial scene'; a tiny black puppy emerged from a Christmas morning package with a giant bow around her neck, large enough to act as a parachute for any flight emergency the puppy might encounter.  We thought it was the perfect gift...we were na├»ve newly married twenty-something's.

Two weeks later, my mom returned the gift...to us! Our tiny rental house didn't allow pets so we went to work to find the dog a new home.  She was so hyper and loud, two different supposed 'forever families' returned her to us claiming she was 'a handful' and she was.

It was settled, Holly was stuck with us and we were stuck with her.  She stayed for a year in our rental house 'in hiding'.  We kept her presence a secret from our 'hands off' landlord and thought we were in the clear.  Then New Years Day hit the following year.  We were out testing out our new roller blades (a Christmas gift from my mom!) with the dog leading the way when the local newspaper spotted us and took a candid shot of a young couple and 'their' dog.

Needless to say when we paid the rent that month the landlord sent us packing and we scrambled to find a new home.  After a frigid move in the height of a Central Illinois winter, the silver lining was that it forced us to buy a home much sooner than we ever planned the following Spring.  She followed us across the country for two big moves before we lost her seven years ago.

18 years later we delivered the same gift to our kids. A new puppy arrived on Christmas morning and we blew our kids out of the water.  It was the coolest Christmas morning ever when they came around the corner and saw him.  They named him Max and they are crazy about him.  My daughter continues to say she feels like she's dreaming and she never thought we would get them a dog.

So why did we do it again, after all the hassle we went through with our first dog?  We did it for the kids.  The thought of their reactions was the motivation to make it happen.  I'm not enjoying the potty training or the constant chewing, but the kids are in heaven.   I think getting the dog was simply another chapter in this parenting saga.  It's the only stage in my life that I've been more consumed with joy by someone else's reactions. 

Dear God, As I look ahead to another year may I take time to sit with you and express the gratitude I feel for the blessings you've bestowed on me with both two legs and four.  Amen.