I made a to-do list for my husband only to discover he dealt with the flooding of an outbuilding all night. Part-way through the school day, the children shouted, “it’s raining again!” and I threw on my boots and jacket and moved sandbags with my husband. We avoided worse damage.
On one end I saw his exhaustion. At the other end, I heard my daughters’ delight that God granted their wish for rain with lots and lots of rain. I stood in the middle offering support and wonder at the magnitude of water falling from the sky.
No fences fell this time. The animals found shelter near the house. My garden was thoroughly watered allowing strewn seeds to send out their autumn shoots, promising early and bigger flowers in spring.
When it was done, the sky grew brighter and slowly blue emerged from that gray dome, the pure blue we see only after a rainfall.
The leaves refaced the surface of the porch and sidewalks. My children ran to me excitedly to announce they saw a tree fall in the neighbor’s orchard. We walked out when the rain subsided and the sun brightened the yard. My daughter counted five trees downed, roots and all.
Then we saw the sunset.
“It’s like heaven,” I said recalling a story St. Therese of Lisieux told of her visit to the sea with her sister in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul.”
“That evening at the hour when the sun seems to sink into the vast ocean, leaving behind it a trail of glory, I sat with Pauline on a bare rock, and gazed for long on this golden furrow which she told me was an image of grace illumining the way of faithful souls here below.”
Whenever I saw such a path or such a sunset, I thought of this idea: it showing the way to heaven when grace lights up the way.
We are all in our own way attempting to find that way, the path that leads to peace, rest, fulfillment, where hearts are not broken, neighbors are trusted, bodies are whole, emergencies no longer derail plans, our bodies regain their elasticity. The place where grief is healed, homes are clean, foundations secure. Where fences do not fall over, leaves do not create slipping hazards and children complete their schoolwork in record time.
We are looking for something and see the promise of it in glimpses every day.
The clouds looked like mountains, my daughters said. The younger marveled at the color and the overall beauty of it.
As we walked away from the trees to an open field, we saw the sky turn from azure to ice blue nearer the horizon before it met purple clouds. Bubblegum pink lined the perimeter of those clouds with blush rays extending out and up.
The elder expressed, “It’s like the light is heaven and the rays are shining out from behind the mountain because nothing can contain the light of heaven.”
There is a secret here. We see that promise of what we hope for in the beautiful moments: the blue sky, the sunset, the feel of the warmth of the sun on a fall day on our skin, the crackling fire, the artwork that stops us in our tracks, or the sleeping toddler on the living room rug.
Yet, even in the storm, if we look, we will see it, too, peeking through, pushing through, in the enduring effort of a tired husband, in the foresight of a loving wife, in the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by a child for her siblings because her parents asked her to.
Emily Dickenson wrote,
“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops – at all”.
During the storm, after the storm, if we are willing to be students of it we shall see that hope can be seen and felt even in the darkest of times.