Because storms can destruct your plans but not your spirit

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that you can’t always trust weather apps.

Especially when Texas storms are involved.

On Sunday afternoon, after spending some time with my sweet nieces, I met my parents at their country club to hang out at the pool. They had just finished golfing, and the 95-degree weather called for some cooling off.

I don’t know exactly how one human can be so precious, but she is.

When I left my brother’s house, though, I noticed that it wasn’t as sunny as it was when I had gotten there, and the sky looked rather ominous to the left (which I’m pretty sure was the north or northeast or something in that general direction).

Shortly after arriving at the pool, I schooled my dad in a game of P.I.G. (I love pools with basketball hoops) and then went to sit with my mom for a bit while she ate lunch. The sky kept getting darker, and my hopes to bask in the sun that day were completely shot. We were chatting for a bit and then decided that we should probably leave soon because the wind was starting to pick up rather quickly.

I put some shorts on over my suit but then decided that I wanted to take the swimsuit bottoms off because they were still pretty wet. So I covered my towel over me and was going to attempt a clandestine operation without even having to take off my shorts completely. However, that situation was quickly interrupted when the wind suddenly started blowing everything, including the couch cushions off of the outside furniture where I was sitting. Everyone started fleeing toward the covered area by the entrance, so I had to wrap my towel around me and join them.

And I hoped with each step that my towel was secured enough and wouldn’t blow up until I was able to stop and make sure that I was completely decent.

We don’t mind storms, but give us all of the animal crackers, please.

I told my parents I was going to drive home, but when I got in my car, it started swaying back and forth, so I ran back to where they were, and we all huddled behind the back of the building until we were ushered into the tennis shop. At one point, a giant table umbrella started blowing toward the cars, and I ran to stop it before it got too far. I’m only including this because I felt incredibly strong lifting that thing up and securing it in a closed-off area. You can compare me to Hercules if you’d like.

We hung out in the tennis shop for a little bit with the lifeguards and animal crackers (the shop has little dispensers of them, which I now think should be a thing everywhere) until we thought it was safe enough to leave. Right when I got to my car, the rain started pouring—I’m really glad it waited, because I had just washed my hair on Saturday, and I didn’t plan on washing it again probably until the following Saturday (judge all you want). As I was driving home, I thought about my expectations for the day versus what had actually happened and how easily and quickly my plans had been altered.

Oh. Hello, life.

It’s definitely not the first time that’s happened, and I know that it won’t be the last—it seems like there are quite a few moments when I have to call an audible and change up what I originally had planned. And, if we’re being honest, most of the time, it’s not even by choice.

When I was a little girl and then a high schooler and then a college gal and then a young woman in my 20s, I always had hopes that each next year would be the year that I would meet my person and fall in love forever. Throughout that span, there have been a few times I thought that had happened. Obviously I was wrong. Because, each time, there was always some big wind that swept in and ruined the plans I had in my heart that I thought were the right ones. They weren’t, though. Just like, for whatever reason, we weren’t meant to spend the entire afternoon at that pool on Sunday, I wasn’t meant to end up with those guys who had charmed their way into my heart.

One thing that can be so frustrating about storms is that they are incredibly powerful and daunting while they’re happening, and they cause you stress because sometimes you don’t know what exactly to do—you simply have to act in the moment and try to get to safety as soon as possible. You often have to wait them out, and they might even leave behind some damages that take significant amounts of time to repair.

I love these tiny tots, even when they’re trying to steal my watch.

The weather in Texas is odd at times. Shortly after that crazy storm that caused a construction crane to fall into an apartment complex (such a sad situation), knocked a billboard sign down onto some parked cars, and left multiple neighborhoods without power, the sun was shining. If you were simply an onlooker, if it weren’t for the tree limbs in the middle of the roads and what seemed like the majority of stoplights being out, you might never know just how bad the storm was or even that it actually happened.

Much like we don’t always know what personal storms people have faced merely by looking at them.

Our plans won’t always happen as we hoped—whether we like it or not, storms will pass through, and we’ll need to change our courses of action. Maybe you didn’t get the job. Maybe you didn’t end up with the person you wanted to love you forever. Maybe you’re facing some daunting health issues. Maybe you’re experiencing a financial hardship. Maybe you trained really hard for something and got injured before you even got to compete. Maybe you lost a championship in the final second after leading the majority of the game. Maybe you lost all of your possessions in a natural disaster. Maybe you worked your entire young adult life toward a certain career only to realize that it’s not something you truly enjoy like you imagined you would.

There are a million more maybes, all of which could spin your world out of control and leave you feeling all alone and unsure of what to do next. Feeling isolated in life’s storms can be pretty scary, especially when they appear to be never-ending. But I hope you know and believe with all of your heart that you’re never completely alone and that you’re braver than you realize you are.

Storms certainly have the power to change our plans and even possibly cause some destruction in our lives, but they don’t have the power to change who we are and how strongly we fight if we don’t let them.

When “safe” isn’t always the answer

It’s easy to be content and trust for the best to happen when you feel safe.

But it’s in those moments when we’re called to be brave that we become who we were always meant to be.

Oh, my heart.

Saturday was the perfect day to stay inside. It was storming pretty badly for most of the late morning and afternoon, and I think we were under a tornado watch. I had invited myself over to hang out with my pretend mother-in-law, Darla (my brother’s mother-in-law who has quickly become one of my besties), and my precious nieces, and I was not sad when I ended up staying there most of the day since it was too nasty outside for me to want to walk outside to my car and drive home.

How is it possible for one human to be this adorable?

I’m not one to be scared of weather. I actually sometimes enjoy thunderstorms—as long as I’m inside somewhere curled up on a couch. And that’s exactly what I got to do Saturday as I snuggled with my nieces and chatted about anything and everything with sweet Darla. The girls didn’t seem to be fazed by the occasional roar of thunder or the fairly constant pounding rain, and I think it’s because they felt completely safe—they were in a place free of danger with two women who would literally do absolutely anything for them.

So what was there to fear?

I think that’s an easier attitude to have when you’re a little kid, though. You don’t pay much attention to the storms or the chances of bad things happening because they aren’t actually there, and you don’t tend to worry as much about things that are merely possibilities when you’re in your safe place. Sure, there might be monsters under your bed when you’re all alone in the dark, but suddenly everything is just fine when your mom or dad comes in the room and flips on the switch. You’re safe again, and worries disappear.

I remember one time when I needed a good cry, and I went and sat/laid on the floor of my closet and wallowed for a while. Mind you, I lived in an apartment all by myself, so zero people would have seen me crying. But there was something about that space that just felt safe—that made me feel like it was OK to let out all of my feelings and allow my face to turn into a red splotchy tear-stained disaster. So I stayed in there until I was finished with my sobfest and ready to face the world again. (And by “face the world,” I obviously mean just move from my closet to the couch to watch basketball.)

Braving the NKOTB crowds. The real hero was the air hockey table.

I thought about that time again on Saturday when I walked to my car when the rain had let up. It felt really peaceful out, and I didn’t have to worry about getting my hair all nasty or my clothes soaked. I was in a safe place. As I started to drive home, though, another torrential downpour began, and there were moments when I couldn’t actually see the road, which probably should have been pretty concerning. But the moment I pulled into my parking garage, I was shielded from the storm, and I knew that I didn’t have to worry about anything. It seems like a pretty sturdy structure. Could it be destroyed? Sure. But it feels pretty safe to me.

So what is there to fear?

Bad things happen in life. That’s pretty inevitable. But there are also amazing things that happen every single day—from the smallest pieces of joy to the most monumental miracles you couldn’t even imagine. Why focus on the storms and the dangers and the “what ifs” and the possible rejections and the risks and the chances of failure and all of the other junk that might or might not happen when we could be focusing on the here and now right in front of us and taking those chances we need to take, even if they don’t necessarily feel “safe” to us?

Nothing about this situation is safe.

While paying attention to your safety is obviously important in many areas of your life, a lot of the time it’s better to remember what C.S. Lewis said about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

It won’t always feel safe to do the things we need to do that other people might even see as crazy, but I trust that the One who calls me to do those crazy things is there with me every single step of the way.

And I feel completely safe with Him—because I know that He’s good.

Life is tough, but so are people

There are many things in life that will make you feel like you’re sinking in quicksand with no one to pull you out.

I’m looking at you, strep throat.

Just trying to bust out of the hospital before finding out I needed surgery

I hate being sick. I can’t think of many people who would say they enjoy it, but I want to make it clear that I HATE being sick. I’m not very good at that whole “listening to your body” thing, so I always try to go on with my life as if nothing is different when something is actually wrong with me—I mean, I’m the girl who decided it would be a good idea to go on a run when there was a 9-millimeter kidney stone trying to pass through me.

Last Sunday evening, my throat started to hurt a bit. I told myself that I was fine and that it was nothing but maybe some allergies (even though I don’t think I normally have allergy issues). When I woke up Monday morning and couldn’t swallow without wanting to scream and had a headache that made me feel like that stinkin’ Wile E. Coyote dropped the anvil and actually hit his target, I told myself I should probably go running, because surely that would make me feel better.

To answer your question, I have no idea what’s wrong with me.

I don’t think I need to tell you more about the run, other than that it wasn’t my best idea, and it hurt. I texted my boss to tell her about my condition and that I thought I needed to go to the doctor, and this was actually a huge step for me—I typically wait to go to the doctor until a hospitalization is required. The nurse did three different tests that involved gagging me, stabbing me and draining every last drop of blood from my finger, and prodding so far up my nose that my left eye almost popped out (zero exaggeration over here).

The doc came in a short time later to tell me that I tested positive for strep throat. This wasn’t good news to hear—I certainly didn’t have room for strep in my life. That memo apparently got lost somewhere along the lines.

The ensuing days were miserable.

Day 1 was filled with me trying not to swallow and failing worse than me trying to get and keep a date to a wedding (for those keeping count, I’ve been in 19 weddings and attended plenty more, never had a date who wasn’t my sister, and had two guys bail on me for two different weddings).

Day 2 (I showed up at work and was sent home by my boss) involved a head that I was sure was going to explode, the loss of my taste buds and sense of smell (so eating was zero fun), and out-of-control chills accompanied by a body that felt like it was on fire.

Day 3 (I showed up at work again and was sent home by my boss again) brought in more congestion than ever, swollen glands that wouldn’t go back to their normal sizes, an aching body, and someone telling me that I looked like I had been hit by a truck (best compliment ever, obviously).

At this point, I know it might be nice to hear that I rested during this time, but I tried running each day—you know, just to see if I was better yet, because clearly the feeling of complete misery inside my entire being wasn’t indication enough that I wasn’t quite healed.

Day 4 brought in a bunch of coughing, thanks to all of that drainage from my stuffed-up nose falling down into my chest. But there was still so much congestion in my nose/head area. MAKE UP YOUR MIND, BODY.

I had to go pick up some medicine (it was like 80-something degrees, and I was in a sweatshirt). Too bad you can’t see my shoes—they made this outfit super classy.

When you’re sick, it sometimes feels like you don’t remember what it’s like to be normal and healthy and like you may never get to feel that way again—it’s as if there’s no end in sight. It can be like that when you’re going through a tough season of life, such as emotional and heartache pain, too. It’s as if there’s nothing you can do to make the pain go away and make everything feel better. Instead, it seems as if it all just keeps getting worse.

I know firsthand how much life can kick a person in the tail and just keep kicking. We all go through different storms and sometimes feel like we’ve been left all alone in the pouring rain, lightning, and thunder during those times. But I can also tell you firsthand that there is hope—and hope is beautiful.

Strep throat doesn’t last forever, and neither do those challenging seasons we face. Even those warriors who don’t survive their battles here on earth are hopefully dancing forever with Jesus, which is better, anyway.

I had a lot of antibiotics, Sudafed, chloraseptic throat spray (that I swallowed every time on accident, even though you’re technically supposed to spit it out), and disgusting sore throat/cough lozenges (such a difficult word to say) over the course of the week, and I’m sure they all helped in some ways to get rid of the nasty illness. It’s not always as simple with other troubles we have to endure, but I’ve found that love helps to ease the pain, even when it comes in the simplest forms. The truth is that we all need love—just look around the world, and I think you’ll see that there’s not quite enough of it.

Strep throat may be able to suck out your physical strength for a while, but it can’t suck all of the hope and love out of your life—nothing can, as long as you don’t let it. I can’t guarantee I’m not going to continue to try to act like pain isn’t there when it really is, but I’m also not going to let it keep me down for long when I finally admit it hurts. Instead, I’m going to continue to believe that there’s never a moment when all hope is completely lost. Life is tough sometimes, but so are people.

And, to quote the wise Dolly Parton, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.”