We have had a lot more snow than usual this year and my children have definitely enjoyed it. However, like most Southern children, they don't have appropriate attire for playing in the snow. During our three snowfalls of 2010, I have had to search the house for whatever warm clothes I could find, most of which are hand-me-downs from my sister-in-law, who must actually purchase outerwear for her kids. But it is still slim pickings, and four layers of fleece don't equal one layer of gore-tex.
Playing in the snow isn't as much fun when you aren't dressed for it. My family never lasts more than about thirty minutes outside. The kids are cold and wet and there is nothing worse than having to peel dripping clothes off of an already shivering child. Those of us who live in the south are never really prepared for a snowstorm. The weatherman has been wrong so many times, it is hard to bring ourselves to get ready for wintery white precipitation.
When Virginia was born, my heart was not ready for a storm. I was expecting a day full of great joy, and I envisioned my life as a Johnson 'n Johnson baby shampoo commercial. You know, where the happy baby giggles and coos as the mother adoringly washes her hair? I had spent months envisioning what having a baby would be like and never imagined what pain would invade our lives on that day. I was mentally unprepared for the bone-numbing cold that comes from true tragedy.
I wasn't completely naive. My grandmother lost both of her children, including my mother, to cancer. I knew tragedy happened, I just thought it was the rare occurrence when in actuality it is the guarantee of this life. I am not saying that we need to live in fear and expect every plane to crash and every cold to turn into pneumonia. Quite the opposite, actually. We need to be assured that trials will come our way, but rest in the fact that God will be with us every step of the way. He gives us strength to make it through each day and the ultimate hope of the resurrection. The promise is not that He will keep the snow storms from coming, but that He will give us the tools we need to stay warm and dry.
My friend Laura has walked this journey every step of the way with me. I was thanking her one day for investing so much time in our family, and asking her how she made time to take every tearful phone call during those early years of Virginia's life. I could have predicted the first part of Laura's response, but the second part surprised me. She said that obviously the main reason she helped carry our burden was because she loved us, but the second thing she said was that she realized if you live long enough, tragedy would inevitably strike you. She said she wanted to learn how to deal with it, so that when true grief came her way, she would be ready. In watching my heart begin to heal after a tremendous loss and being a part of that redemptive process, Laura was learning that the Lord would see her through whatever storms would arise in her life.
I wasn't spiritually ready for the storm when Virginia was born. I loved the Lord very much, but I still had a lot of fear in my life. I felt there were certain things I wouldn't be able to handle. But as I watched one of my greatest fears be realized, I saw God's presence in my life every day. I learned that no matter the depths of sorrow we must go to on this earth, our faith and love of the Lord will remain. One way or another, He will see us through to the other side. It doesn't make what happened to Virginia any less devastating, and it doesn't mean that the next time tragedy comes my way, I won't cry just as many tears. But it does mean that I now know with certainty that He will be with us every step of the way and my heart is more prepared for the storm.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5