The sky was emotional on that early July night last year. Like a mirror for my day.
The great expanse started calm and peaceful, content with its place. Visiting family back home in Montana, I started my day with a pedicure with my cousin and we caught up on life and love, teaching and moving.
Then the sky wanted to show off a bit. The sun turned more and more vibrant as it dipped over the mountains, leaving behind clouds tinged in pink against a purple-red sky. After getting my toes painted, I spent the rest of my day family hopping. My three-year-old daughter learned to play golf with her grandparents; she ran with bare feet through the grass with her cousins; we checked out the new brewery and listened to local music with our parents; and we made plans to go hiking the next day with my brother.
Inky blue replaced those colors as quickly as they came, bringing with it clouds as close to black as you can get rolling across the valley. By the end of the day, the bright emotions I felt at the beginning were tinged black with sadness that this life with these people we love can only be lived in 12-day increments when we travel back to Montana from New York City twice a year.
If you sit on my mother-in-law’s front porch, you can see the mountains wrapping themselves all the way around the town where my husband and I grew up. The mountains seem to hold our childhood memories in place. We sat on the porch that night and watched the storm roll across the valley. At one point the thunder shook the house and woke my daughter up. Instead of coaxing her back to sleep, we wrapped her in a blanket and let her stay up late watching the lightning show.
It was a perfect end to a day filled with family.
Days like this tug on my heart and make me wonder if we’re crazy to be living so far away from this place we love and these people who love us. By the end of days like this my heart can feel stormy. My contentment with living in New York bumps up next to my longing to be back in a familiar setting with familiar people. That is how lightning works too – tiny molecules bumping in to each other until they form something electric and powerful.
“I’m scared, Mom,” Norah said with sleep still in her voice as another round of thunder echoed in the valley below.
“I know you are, Norah. But I’ve got you. The storm won’t last long,” I told her as I wrapped the blanket more tightly around her small body nestled in my lap. I could feel her shoulders relax as she melted a bit more into the comfort of my arms.
The next morning the sky was clear blue as that faithful sun rose over the mountains again. I have certainly witnessed longer, more intense storms than the one from the previous night. But God was teaching me something through the one I sat and watched from a distance, my daughter snuggled on my lap and my husband at my side.
I could have left Norah in her bed to try and keep sleeping through the storm, but I think her sleep would have been fitful. She would have tried in her own power to block those loud crashes from her hearing and willed her eyes to stay shut as lightning sporadically lit her room to illuminate the shadows that night brings. Instead, I held her and reminded her she was safe.
I think sometimes God purposely keeps us awake through the hard storms – whether they are life-altering or simply times of grappling with hearts longing to be in two places at once. He invites us to be with Him, and if we let Him, He holds us tightly.
When we admit we’re scared, He says, I know you are. But I’ve got you. The storm won’t last long.