As Winter Storm Harper pummeled its way across the country and toward us last week, with only hours to spare before the rain turned to ice, I ventured to my local Menards (a home improvement store). There, I purchased flashlights and ice melt, along with a few home project items to keep me busy while I was snowed in. I was already equipped with a snow shovel, excellent snow boots, warm clothing, and plenty of food.
With it being the last day of a big sale – and the day of a large snowstorm –Menards was busy. And on my way to Menards, I passed the only Walmart in town, whose parking lot looked as though it was the day before Christmas! ‘What are all of these people buying?!,’ I wondered.
More than anything, it made me wonder about how we approach the oncoming stresses of life and how we share these lessons with our families: With what do we choose to equip ourselves and our families to face life’s challenging times? What do we already have stored up at home, and what do we run out at the last minute to buy? And, what do we trust to be enough? Or, are you like my Facebook friend who realized as a single mother, only after the snow had started, that she didn’t have a snow shovel or an ice scraper for her car, so her return to work on Monday might be a little challenging?
As we approach such storms in life (both the literal and the metaphorical), it requires – ideally – some level of preparation, trust, creativity, and neighborly goodwill. In the end, a blend of these usually pulls us through:
- Flashlights: What tools do you have to light the way for you – and call you back to your best self – when you can no longer see? Do you at least have plans to make sure you can meet your basic needs in life (i.e. Can you see to get to the bathroom and, at the least, open a can of Beanie Weenies?)? And when you lose sight of who you are, do you have poems or scriptures you read to remind yourself of who you know yourself to be? What “flashlights” might be helpful to your children when they lose their way? Maybe you have favorite outdoor places you’ve visited as a family where you all find a sense of clarity and rootedness.
- Ice Melt: When you and your family have been holed up together in one house for some time, ice may not be the only thing that needs melting! What helps you dissolve hard feelings when they build up in your relationships? After getting into conflict with your child, you might try to find a way to laugh with them quickly afterward. Humor is one way to dispel hurt and let us know “we’re okay” in relationship with one another again.
- Warm snow boots and clothes: A few years back, I spent some good money and invested in an excellent pair of snow boots. These boots keep me comfortable, safe, dry, and I use them readily since they’re easy to wear. Sometimes, we have to drop some cash if we have it (I bought my boots on clearance!) and really invest in something quality that will carry us through the long haul – it may even feel a little luxurious. Do you need to invest in a parenting class so you have more skills at hand when the toddler or teen tantrums surface? Or would you like to invest in meaningful family experiences to create lifelong memories and deeper relationships for you all?
- Humility and community: My Facebook friend – the one without the shovel or ice scraper – though low on preparation, had invested a lot in social connections. Her neighbors and friends piped up when she humbly mused about her lack of preparedness and offered to help shovel her out of her driveway and to clear her car off for her! Her willingness to admit her own inadequate preparation opened a pathway that allowed community to care for her and they did!
There’s only so many ways we can prepare for what may come in life. Knowing what calls us back to our strengths and deepest selves, learning interpersonal tools for relationship, investing in long-term returns, and being willing to be humble and depend on our neighbors are all excellent ways to equip ourselves for the storms of life. The rest is up to trust. We can’t possibly know what may befall us in the future, but we can trust in our own ingenuity, resilience of spirit, in the goodness of That Which is Greater, and in our communities to walk with us. Building a sense of this trust is, perhaps, the greatest challenge and the greatest tool of all with which we can equip ourselves.
May you find these resources in your own lives, and may you help your children find them, too,
Rev. Sarah Gettie