I’m a Florida girl.
“But, you’re from Ohio, Jess!”
Yeah, well, my parents never got the memo. (Sorry, guys.) I spent my Ohio days huddled on top of the heater with a blanket wrapped around me, complaining an endless rant about not being able to feel my body parts. “Mom, my fingers are white with red splotches! Is that bad?” Even as a toddler, I tried to relay the message to my parents’ Ohio-planted ears by taking my first steps on a Great Lakes beach. Even then I knew. I knew the sand was my earth, the waves my soul, the water my body, and the salty air my breath. I feel alive with the shore; as if being with the water gives me my only chance to really breathe. To take it in. To breathe its life. And to be one with the One who created it all.
To me, God is no more real, no more present, than He is on the shoreline. He tickles my feet with every wave that washes ashore. He laughs with me as I hear His voice in the call of the seagulls. He plays in the water as a dolphin puts on a majestic performance. He touches my cheek as the breeze blows past. God is everywhere on the beach to me.
And sometimes He shows Himself in power. As comforting and soothing as the gentle lapping of green-flagged waves can be, double-red flagged crashers show a terrifying (yet captivating) display of ferocity. Another sign of God’s presence to me. What a tangible reminder that God Himself has many faces, many moods, and myriad ways of expressing Himself. It’s often easy to welcome the sun-filled days of playful waves, and yet so very difficult to welcome the gray-clouded, lightning-infused days of thunderous turmoil. And yet, both are open signs of God expressing Himself to us. I know I certainly have both kinds of days in my relationships with family members. If I hope to be accepted and welcomed in both sun and stormy weather, then I must be willing to accept both sun and stormy weather. (True; easier said than done.)
One of Florida’s fancy little secrets is its almost ritualistic afternoon showers. Though they can be a pain in the patooty, those little rain drops can be a very welcome visitor. You see, it rains a lot in Florida. But never for long. That’s the secret (Darn! I spilled the beans). Once the sky gets all gloomy and scary-looking, opportunity awaits! Why? Because those who don’t know the secret, leave! They pack up all their beach toys, sunscreen, floaties, and umbrellas and say, “Well, it was a nice day at the beach/park/Magic Kingdom today, but we should probably wrap it up now.”
Then, TA-DA!!! Those of us who know “the secret” suddenly have the beach/park/Magic Kingdom to ourselves! Hot diggidy dog! Oh, yeah, and since it rained, it’s a lot cooler now. (Ok, and the humidity has reached rainforest levels, but you win some and you lose some.) You see, if you just wait out the storm, it passes much quicker than you expected, and the end result is much, much sweeter.
Case in point: Saturday, I had the blessed opportunity to take my kids to Disney World for the day. You see, it wasn’t just any day, it was my birthday, which is the next national holiday…be on the lookout. My most selfish day of the year. Anyway, March 29 being the last weekend of Orlando’s spring break, they were expecting record-breaking crowds. Multiple hour waits for every ride. Parking lots closed because they reached peak capacity. But they were also expecting rain. An opportunity!!
So off we went, ponchos in tow, to enjoy a very uncertain day at the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Three hours in, the rain began. Then the lightning came. Then the tornado watches. And finally, the tornado warnings. Undaunted (because we knew the secret), we found our way to a cement-walled bathroom and waited. Other joyful wait-ers entertained me with a boisterous round of “Happy Birthday”. We ran from one solid spot to another in between lightning strikes. And then, as expected, it ended.
Out came the sun, and away went the crowds. Oh, happy day!!
We never waited more than 40 minutes after that. Bless You, Jesus, for the rain!!
Bless You, Jesus, for the rain.
Huh. How many times in life do I actually say that?
How often do I actually THANK God for the storms? For the rain? For the trials? For the gray clouds of life? Not very often. I mean, why would I ever THANK God for the tough times? What good would there be in stopping my day, changing my plans, and dealing with soggy, wet shoes?
Perhaps maybe, just maybe, the crowds dissipate after the storm passes. Maybe the thoughts stop swirling. Maybe the fears take a trip to Alaska. Maybe the hurts and sorrows call it a day.
And then maybe…just maybe…the sun will come out.
Florida’s storms rarely last long. In hurricane season, such is not the case, and certainly life bears multiple hurricanes. But how many more of our stormy moments come and go in a seeming flash? When the wind is howling and the rain is pummeling us, it is easy to give in to the darkness. In those moments, the hope of sunny skies seems a distant and unattainable dream. We are being beaten down, leaving very little energy for optimism. Goodness knows, I have resorted to optimism only in emergency situations.
But what if I didn’t? What if I grabbed hold of optimism at the first sign of cloudy skies? Storms a-comin’ means glory ahead. The chance to grow, learn, reach, and hold on with each thundercloud. The chance to rely on God until the skies clear. And then to face the rainbow. What better promise is there?
I just have to hold on.
Because sooner or later, and usually sooner, that Florida shower will pass away. Then it’s clear skies ahead; calm and serene…until the next shower, and the next chance to “hang on”.
I have to admit; even though I am writing about the joys of hanging on during those thunderous moments, I’m only now beginning to learn how to do so. Would you like to try this out with me? Let me know of your most recent personal thundercloud and what God shared with you during your storm.