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With only a battery-powered radio to keep me in touch with the outside world, I heard staggering stories of loss and devastation. I heard about the Boardwalk being washed away, houses sitting in the middle of the highway, and commentators referring to “what was formerly known as the Jersey Shore,” but assumed that they had to have been exaggerating. When I finally got the cable back and watched the storm coverage on television, it was far worse than I could ever have imagined.

It was hard to absorb it all. How did this storm uproot trees on my block and tear down my fence? I mean, it was incredibly loud all night long, like furious freight trains surrounding us, but the house wasn’t shaking or anything. How was this kind of damage possible? My neighbor’s pool was crushed by an enormous hundred-year-old oak. Wires were down, traffic lights weren’t working, power was out.

The first day back to a local grocery store was chaotic. The power was out and all the frozen goods freezers were cordoned off with yellow tape as if it was a crime scene. It was all spoiled, unsellable. The lights were out in the store and the few shoppers there looked at each other in the dark, shell-shocked. The skeleton crew of staff kept saying, “No refrigerated items. No debit or credit. No batteries. No bottled water.”

By the time I left the store, I knew it like a mantra. This was the case everywhere, so there was nowhere else to go to shop for food, and nowhere to put it at home if we did find it. We had no power for our refrigerator either.

Driving on Jersey roads after Sandy was treacherous; traffic lights weren’t working and cross-streets were blocked, so you had to drive a mile out of your way to turn around. Trees were down everywhere and debris had to be avoided. Gas stations were closed so you had to be judicious about expending the little gas you had left in your car. The situation seemed to bring out the worst in the few drivers on the road and it seemed best not to venture out unless absolutely necessary.

I kept reminding myself that we still had a house while many down the shore had lost everything. I tried to keep it all in perspective, but something just got stuck in my craw and I felt far – very far – from the Source of my strength.

Finally, I was able to pray openly and honestly. With all due respect – I began – why would You put us through these life-altering storms? It became a metaphor for the ongoing struggles in my personal life that seem to have no solution. How could I reconcile my belief that God is in charge and God is good with the chaos and pain in the world and in my life?

So I’ve had to learn to just hold on until I make it through. I tried to encourage others by updating my blog with information about the power outage in Central Jersey, just trying to find a way to be useful. As for me, I want to know what tomorrow will bring, but for now, I have no clue. I have to start right where I am, and get to work on re-building the foundation of my faith.

My spiritual house may have been renovated by the storms of life, but the load-bearing beam is hope. Even if today was surreal and soul-squashing, tomorrow comes, and brings with it promise and possibility. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making it through the night.

Last weekend, my family and I hiked at Lake Wappapello. Photo by my husband, Dan Edwards.

Last week, Ruth wrote a post about being able to count a good cup of coffee as a blessing. She discussed how we need to be able to locate these gifts even in difficult times.

I have to admit that this isn’t easy for me, especially when I am super busy. You know what I mean. This weekend we had family over for lunch, pulled up carpet, tore out tile and got ready to sand floors. Tuesday, if not also Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I have jury duty. But I also have work deadlines on the 15th and 28th of the month. Blessings? Maybe I can work in a few but it won’t be for days and days. I’m just too busy.

At times like this, in order to spot my blessings, I need to do something meditative. Note: I do not say meditate. I have monkey mind. It’s a Buddhist term for a frantically active mind. Maybe its my tendency to be Type A, but I don’t think I have monkey mind so much as screaming band of monkeys mind. My brain is far too busy to be only one monkey. Because of this, I find meditation difficult if not impossible.

This means that I do things I find meditative. I have to have some kind of fairly mindless activity to distract my brain while I relax. When I have the chance, I walk the local labyrinth. Depending on the season, I pull weeds or shovel snow. Knitting also works for me. When my family is with me, I like to walk outside, through a natural area.

When I take time to do these kinds of activities, my frantic little brain can expend a certain amount of energy on what I’m doing. But it also mellows out enough that I can take the time to look around.

Like Ruth, I notice the little things. A rich cup of coffee. A decadent piece of chocolate. A song that stirs my soul. Or just the pleasure of getting to be, for an undetermined amount of time, while I do something that let’s me lose myself in a simple task.

Speaking of which, over this horde of screeching monkeys, I can just barely hear a skein of purple wool calling my name. And beside it sits a cup of coffee.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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