Some things have happened lately that I don’t want to forget. I have been telling God and myself that I want to be a person of peace. As usual, I have been reading and writing and praying and journaling and going to counseling, and just generally waiting for change. Then the other day, an image of a tornado deposited itself in my mind. I can’t say how or why the image came to me, other than to say it came unbidden. As a tornado does.
I saw myself as the tornado, tightly wound on the inside, full of chaos and demands, barreling into a room, asking questions, making demands, ordering tidiness even while creating emotional chaos, and then just as abruptly as it came, departing the room, leaving devastation in its wake. I recognize myself touching down like a tornado far too often. It happened last Sunday before church when Sailor didn’t want to wear “church clothes.” I was rushed and annoyed and tried giving options without giving kindness. I wasn’t horrible, but I wasn’t commendable either. Sailor melted down and remained subdued throughout church, partly because she wore something she didn’t like and partly because of the distance my tornado-like behavior left in its wake.
For the next couple of days, I let my mind wander in pursuit of an image that would signify the opposite of a tornado. At first, I considered a gentle breeze, cooling me off on a hot summer day, or the first feeling of fall when the Saturday air is crisp and Game Day is on TV and I get a twinge of excitement about the change of seasons. But then I remembered that I don’t like all the Halloween hoopla or the cold weather that is just behind that “fall feeling.” I also remembered how much I hate “another damn wind,” as Anne Lamott calls it.
The windy days in Naperville drove me crazy when I’d take the kids to the park and my hair would be windblown and we’d be cold and wearing sweatshirts, even in June. Part of the reason I don’t love the beach is because of the wind that kicks up sand everywhere. And in my daily life now, I pay close attention to what the wind is doing to the lake. What I want for the best water skiing is zero wind, which translates to complete stillness of the water. And that’s when I knew that my counter image to Tornado would be Stillness. It’s when the water looks like glass first thing in the morning, with not one bit of wind to disturb it. All is calm. All is at peace.
Since I’ve been given these two images to dwell on, it seems the universe has conspired to drive the message home. Call it serendipity, or call it Spirit. But these are the things I do not want to forget:
1) At my last therapy session, my counselor shared with me the verse “Be still and know that He is God,” and said that stillness is an action and an art. I did not share with her the Tornado/Stillness images because I didn't have them yet.
2) I listened to Emily P. Freeman’s “The Next Right Thing” podcast last week after not listening to it in months. The episode I listened to was Episode 89: Come Back with Peace. This particular line spoke volumes: “Are you willing to carry peace with you into the next room, even if the t’s aren’t crossed, and the beds aren’t made, and everything feels crazy?”
3) A friend let me borrow the preschool curriculum she used for her son, to use for Sailor this school year. It’s called “The Peaceful Preschool.” Please sign me up for The Peaceful Anything.
4) And finally, the icing on the cake, the occurrence this past week that gave me the most pause because it reminded me again that God can do anything, and the part of the story I’m telling that I hope I never, ever forget:
Some friends of ours who attend a different church came to visit our church on Sunday. I didn’t know they were coming, but we both arrived to church at the same time, so we greeted each other in the parking lot. Their daughter, who is Story’s friend, had borrowed one of Story’s books the last time they were at our house, and they brought along the book to church on Sunday to return it to Story. I did not even recall they had borrowed the book, much less this specific book:
Thank you, Betsy Byars, for writing a book about a dog named Tornado.
Thank you, Story’s friend, for borrowing this particular book.
Thank you, friends of ours, for coming to visit our church on Sunday.
Thank you also for remembering to bring back the book.
Thank you, God, for orchestrating details like the return of this book to remind me that the Tornado image was given to me to think about so I won’t be like that.
Thank you, God, for the counter-image of Stillness and for the many messages of peace lately.
Thank you, Saluda Lake, for being still so many mornings and showing me a better way to live.
Thank you, Ginger’s heart, for continuing to pump and enable life so I can change and grow and begin again every day, for as long as I live.
May I bring peace into every room I enter and to every person I encounter. May I temper my tornado tendencies sooner. May I cut back till there’s peace. May I look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. May I give up and never give up at the same time. Amen.