Stillness After the Storm

I’ve lived in the Northwest nearly all my life. In this place where the weather is typically a bit on the boring side, our responses to anything out of the ordinary can be truly dramatic. I love the way we embrace sunshine like it may never come again and treat snowstorms like hurricanes. And this year’s snowstorm did not disappoint. The snowflakes arrived at almost exactly the moment they were supposed to, piling up inch by inch just as predicted.

Most years, when February rolls around, I am in full-on hibernation mode. If I could join the bears and sleep from Christmas until Spring, I probably would. Once the Christmas tree comes down, the long, slow wait begins. I never learned to appreciate the short days, mud, and general dampness that accompany our Northwest winters, and last year was no exception.

When the Storm Rises

Photo Credit: Sara Sandefur

In January 2018, I was promoted to a new position at work. It came with a nice raise and exponential increase in responsibility. Last winter flew by in a fog of long hours, countless meetings, thousands of emails, and long, sleepless nights. My fear of getting it all wrong was completely overwhelming. I constantly replayed each day in my mind, second guessing most of my decisions and wondering if I was even coming close to what was expected of me.

For once, the weather was completely irrelevant. I did not rejoice as usual when the sun finally returned—I barely even noticed. Big events came and went. Our oldest daughter moved her family to Kentucky. Our middle daughter graduated from high school and left for college. Our youngest learned how to drive. I tried my best to keep up with the crazy pace.

By the end of last year, I was in desperate need of peace. I could barely find time to do the laundry, much less to be still! While the learning curve at work had leveled out, I had quickly learned that the pace was not likely to ever slow down. The elusive work/life balance remained out of reach. The low roar in my head was made up of responsibilities and expectations that I was constantly trying to juggle, with varying success. And beneath it all, I was miserable.

The Light Ahead

Photo Credit: Sara Sandefur

One thing I love about snow is the stillness it brings. The usual underlying roar of planes, trains, and freeways is muffled to a silence rarely heard in my part of the city. The whole neighborhood rests in quiet peace. To be honest, on an average day I don’t even notice the noise. I’ve lived in Tacoma for over 20 years, and the constant hum of the city is as natural to me as the birds singing next door. But the snowy silence makes me think about the things that become “noise” in my own life. What distracts me from being still? Am I letting those distractions drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking truth to me?

I love the way that a snowy night reflects every little bit of light, casting a silvery glow in all directions until it doesn’t seem dark at all. David writes in Psalm 139:12, “Even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”

This verse is both a comfort and a reminder for me. Sometimes I find myself seeking out the shadows, trying to hide from all my fears and failures. There are also times when I feel lost in darkness. When hope seems like a distant dream, and my faith is a candle that flickered out somewhere along the way. But there is no darkness, no shadow, where God can’t see me. I am never lost, never without hope of rescue. God is not done with me. Every breath is another chance.

The week before Christmas brought the usual Holiday frenzy along with a new problem – I was asked to restructure my position at work. It was obvious to most everyone that it was too much responsibility for one person, so I needed to determine the best way to divide it up. I wrestled and prayed over this process for days. In the end, I put together a proposal that made good sense for our company, without me as a part of it. I wrote my position out of existence, giving up the promotion, the pay raise, the title, all of it. I could choose to dwell on this as an incredible failure on my part. Instead, I see that while I was writing that proposal, God was planning my rescue.

God’s Grace Covers

My very favorite thing about snow is the way that it covers everything. Sharp edges disappear under a curvy white blanket. Mud and garbage disappear. Everything in sight looks clean and shiny. The snowy perfection reminds me that God is perfect, but I am not. I fall short. And if I stayed covered in the mud, garbage, and clutter of my many imperfections, there would always be a barrier between God and me. Instead, the Holy Spirit actually lives IN me. In the middle of my mess. How? Because Jesus covered the garbage. He didn’t just cover it, he destroyed it. As far as God is concerned, there is no mess. I am completely clothed by the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf. Romans 8:33 says, “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one – for God himself has given us right standing with himself.” What an incredible gift!

This year, I am thankful for our PNW February weather drama. It was a nice break from our typical monotonous winter wetness. There is no end to the entertainment provided by our part of the country during a snowstorm. But I am especially grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the stillness of a bright, snowy evening as a reminder of God’s unfailing goodness and grace through it all.