Friday, January 22, 2010

Storms and a Tree of Life

Last night the winds were howling. This was no gentle evening breeze. It was frightening, ferocious...willing to tear up anything in its path. It roared 'round the house, literally ripping off soffits and siding as it went. I am not a fan of these ruthless, raging storms. Whether they're blowing specks of dust in my eyes or messing up my hair is beside the point. I don't like the fierceness and chaos and destruction that seems to ride on these tempests. Strong wind makes me feel like the universe is angry, reckless, and out-of-control.

This morning as I drove away from a friend's house, I noticed that a tree in the neighbor's yard was blown right over by last night's storm. A strong tree, with roots and branches. Yesterday it was standing tall, and now it's lying on the ground, with all of its branch tips stumbling over the gutter and into the street. Gone. Just like that.

As I looked at that broken tree, ravaged by last night's winds, I felt something start to snap inside me. That tree doesn't even belong to me, yet I was somehow hurt by its fall. And I was amazed by the unseen force that caused it to fall. Sometimes I forget how powerful winds can be.

Winds are everywhere around us figuratively, too. Unseen forces of destruction, leaving chaos and upheaval and sadness in their wake. Honestly, the winds rattling the windows last night are NOTHING compared to the storm that rattled our family last year. And we're one of the lucky ones -- we're still standing -- together, supported, loved.

With increasing frequency and intensity, the winds are breaking down will-power and leveling self-respect. They're bulldozing marriages, fracturing families. They're even rumbling through the stock market and turning mortgages upside-down...because everywhere the storm rises, integrity falls.

I felt myself want to cry out, like the disciples of old, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?"

And then I remembered the rest of the story:
"And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?"

(Mark 4:37-40)

There IS an antidote to all the destruction, a way to stand fast in the face of the fiercest storm. The only real safety and peace hinges on our faith in Him:
  1. Alma 26:6
    Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.

  2. 1 Ne. 18: 21
    And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm.
The winds are everywhere, and they are far more powerful than we think. But He is there for us, with a peace that surpasses all understanding. This I know.


Kristina P. said...

You know, you should really be a writer.

Jessica said...

Thank-you for this. Yes, He is in the storm, he calms the storm . . . feeling frayed and bent and needing to hear that today! Thanks.

Kazzy said...

They are tests of faith. I am not the most patient of people, so waiting things out is so hard for me.

And I am sorry for your neighbor's tree. Trees are so symbolic... it kind of shakes me up to see one fall like that.

Debbie said...

Learning to trust and developing patience - those are tough tasks!

Melanie J said...

We've been battered by storms down here all week. But I feel fine. A little ready for the rain to be over, but safe, comfortable, and without any squishy spirits. I feel like that about my life right now, too. It's not perfect, but all is well. I guess it's because the wind always passes, and the rain, too.

Good post. As always!

Kimberly said...

This post is sweet balm to the troubled soul. Bless your heart.

Dedee said...

I shall probably read this several times in the next while.

I need to hear this.

L.T. Elliot said...

The other day I was battling my own personal storm and the words sparked in my mind, "Be still and know that I am."
And stillness descended. I've tried to hold onto that stillness because though a gale can fill the sales, the calm is so lovely.

Lara said...

This made me cry. I so needed to read this. Winds abound in my life right now, and I just asked my husband for a blessing about an hour ago (haven't gotten it yet) and I am a little ashamed I didn't think of it before today. Thank you.

Happy Mom said...

Nice insights and prose.

Enjoyed the post.

Sandy M. said...

I read your first paragraph and thought: 'I LOVE storms!!' I LOVE the power of the wind tearing at my clothes and blowing my hair about. I love the pelting rain and the lightning flashes and the splitting crash of thunder. I love to watch the giant gum trees in the forest behind our house bend and sway as they are torn by the wind. I calculate each time if they will hit the house if they fall our way - hoping they won't but ready to run the children to safety if they do. We have pretty violent, tropical storms here through our summer, and we often watch them, enraptured, from our (covered) back veranda.

Then I read the remainder of your post and thought: 'Doh!'

There IS nothing in nature to compare with the devastation that can come by the spiritual storms that beset us.

It's funny though - I think that what I love about storms is that I feel the power of God in them. I am comforted to be reminded of my own nothingness, in concert with the awesome scope of his power.
(Not-withstanding the experience of Elijah on the mountain. Perhaps if people don't listen to the still, small voice, the Spirit occasionally raises it up a level :)

I don't think the storms make anything fall that is firmly anchored and 'built upon the rock' - including integrity I think.


DeNae said...

I'm with Kristina. And I don't mind storms, as long as I'm inside and protected.

Years ago we weathered Hurricane Georges in Puerto Rico. Holed up in our little office, we taught our kids about how our house - a concrete box - was built specifically to handle hurricanes. And that our lives can be constructed the same way, through the simple things we're counseled to do over and over again.

So the storms rage, and the destruction is heard all around. But you're safe, and at peace.

It was a great lesson, for all of us.

InkMom said...

Wonderful. And amen.

That's all.

Luisa Perkins said...

Ah, my friend, you are so wise (and so gifted).

Heather of the EO said...

WOW, isn't it something, how we posted our wind posts around the same time :) Just makes me want to say I LOVE YOU (again)

And OH how I felt this post. This is, in a way, what I was driving at in my post, that even when the wind is blasting through, turning your world upside down, spring always always comes. It's a certainty that I can't live without. It is God and I'm humbled by the way He came for the likes of even me, to calm the storms.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Love this. Thanks, love.

Tammy Lorna said...

1 Nephi 18:21 is my favourite scripture. It so beautifully and simply describes the power of a sincere prayer for a heart in turmoil.

xo Tammy

Roban said...

Sometimes, as I stand in my sunroom looking out toward the woods, I stand in awe of the power of the wind. Tall pine trees sway and bend with each gust.... I feel safe, tucked inside my home, out of the fray. I guess that's the feeling we're supposed to have when we know there's Someone larger than life in control.

.... I e-mailed you back several weeks ago to your other address.... Haven't heard back but I'm still excited about the possibility of having my students read your novel.

Sandy M. said...

Hi Jana :) You seem to have been absent here for longer than usual.. I'm hoping it's because LIFE is so much (hectic) fun for you right now.. Or at least that you are engaged in something you really enjoy.
I hope you are having a good year so far :)


Heidi Ashworth said...

I have to split hairs over Kristina's comment---you ARE a writer and an artist and your soul is gorgeous. We had a very old oak tree ripped out of the ground by a storm about the same time as this post went up. We have had terrible wind storms in years past, but this tree withstood them. Why did it go down this time? Meanwhile, the hawk that lived in the tree has been circling it ever since, bewildered and reluctant to find a new home. Recent events in my life have been a powerful reminder that there is nothing and no one that we can count on to keep us safe in the storm except for the teachings of the gospel and our Savior. Even the ones who have gotten through many a storm in their lives can go down eventually. Thanks for the reminder.

Sandy M. said...

Hi Jana! At the risk of being a black pot... ?
Hope things are good with you :)


Sandy M. said...

Hi Jana! Thinking of you and hope that all is well :)