As I stare at the weather app on my phone, my brain is physically incapable of comprehending what a “high” of ‘Negative Eight’ is going to feel like this week. Eight degrees below zero. Forty degrees below freezing. For the HIGH that day. The apex of the thermometer’s reach that day will still be eight degrees below zero.
Knowing that is in my (near) future is kind of freaking me out. I am planning when to put gasoline in my car so that I won’t have to deal with that during the deep freeze days. I am packing a yoga bag with fleece-lined tights and fur-lines boots, a long scarf and earmuffs, and an extra pair of gloves, for that unlikely scenario in which I am stuck someplace cold. (There may also be a few protein bars and a pack of gum in there, too.)
So knowing these challenging conditions are just ahead, I prepare.
It occurred to me in church this week that I have all kinds of indicators about what else is ahead of me: I mean, I am glad I don’t know when, but I am fairly sure at some point, I will die. That weather app won’t matter a bit to me, someday. (again, hoping it’s far off in the future). Am I preparing for that ultimate reality now? Am I packing my figurative yoga bag with a lifetime of kindness and grace, patience and positive responses to the challenges that any life will bring?
Probably not enough, if I am being honest. I’ve done my best to be a good person. Most of the time. Except those times when I didn’t. When I was cranky or afraid or worried or embarrassed. Or tired or hungry. At those times, I might not have been imitating Jesus. I maybe was not even thinking about following his lead. I might have been wallowing in a self-absorbed pity-party. And I am going to guess (hope?) that other people may have a similar story. My belief is that God knows this, and understands it, but that we still need to set aside that self-focus and work a little harder to be who he needs us to be, who he knows we can be. We need to prepare, not just ourselves, but everyone we meet, that this is how it’s going to be one day: we’ll be looking out for each other and building each other up. If we get stranded, we’ll pull out our yoga bags and divvy up the scarves and protein bars---and there will be enough for everyone. We’ll really understand that we’re here for each other.
I guess Jesus never promised me that Indiana winters would not be cold. He just gave me enough sense to check with a weather app and enough compassion to think about others so that I can be ready for the challenge. I’m happy to share my protein bars.
My husband and I don’t have family nearby; his relatives are mainly in the Buffalo, New York area and mine are scattered from Kansas to Texas to Arizona. One of the unexpected bonuses of working at Trinity is that I get to meet and get to know people here. I get to connect with people who are at all different stages of life, from my friend Bella, whose sunny ten-year-old exuberance shines light into my world as we sit together on Sunday mornings; to 91-year old Sue, who is one of our multi-talented, multi-tasking volunteers whose gifts and talents enrich Trinity in a variety of ways.
One day recently I had the chance to chat with Sue about her earliest childhood memories related to gardening, one of her passions. She easily recalled her role in helping her mother plant green beans, strong beans and lima beans. She explained the process of “canning” the beans (in glass jars) and storing them in the ‘cold cellar’ across the lane so they could eat fresh vegetables even in the winter. In the ‘regular’ cellar under the house, you’d find root vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots--- ready for the taking, year ‘round. She described the smokehouse where cuts of pork (butchered from her siblings’ 4-H pigs) would hang, before being wrapped in cloth and transferred to an upstairs room in their house, cold enough without electricity to keep the meat fresh. She said cheese and candy were special treats to be purchased from the store in town, about a mile and half’s walk away. Milk came from the neighbor’s cows which were allowed to ‘board’ at Sue’s parents’ property, though young Sue didn’t care for the taste of raw milk.
Sue’s eyes shone when she described to me the clothes her mother sewed for her, as a youngster and then as a young woman headed off to college. The 6-piece wardrobe her mother cut and sewed by hand “made me feel like a princess,” says Sue. She offered to show me the one piece still in existence: a corduroy jacket she still wears (!!!)
Maybe the most surprising discovery of that particular conversation was when Sue told me how she met her husband in Venezuela: Oh, he wasn’t Venezuelan, she said,” he was a good ole Kansan.” “Kansas?!?!” I asked, incredulous. “Sue,” I told her,” I AM FROM KANSAS!” She giggled. I asked where he was from, and she thought out loud, “Not Salina…” she began. “Sue,” I said,” I went to high school in Salina! We are probably related!”
And that’s how I gained an Aunt Sue.