The temperature rose to a balmy 24 this morning and the sun was shining on northern Indiana, so I bundled up, grabbed the snow shovel and went to work on our huge front porch.
We live in a 140-year-old brick house that sits on a rise at the edge of a glacial valley. When the wind sweeps down the hillside into our corner of this valley, it can pile up some pretty remarkable snowdrifts — making for a lot of beauty in the midst of this terrible Winter.
It wasn’t long before I abandoned my shovel and grabbed the camera.
As I walked around our yard, shooting photos, I drank in the harsh beauty of this Winter that has challenged us. Trapped us. Worn us down. I thought about the warm, fresh beauty of Spring, hidden beneath the layers of cold, heavy snow.
And as I worked at shoveling, I was reminded that often the beauty we long for is covered by a “terrible blast” — something we knew might be coming, but didn’t expect to last so long. Something we’ve dealt with before, but haven’t had the strength to face this time around. Or something unexpected and out of our control.
Life’s terrible blasts — illness, death, injury, fire, brokenness, failure — are something we know will be part of our world, but when they sweep in to overwhelm us, they can cover the beauty of that warm, peaceful existence we had taken for granted. And when they pile up, we fear there’s no way we’ll ever dig ourselves out.
We long for the warmth and beauty of Spring. And maybe we miss the beauty piled at our doorstep.
A few weeks ago, my aunt and cousin suffered a devastating house fire that wiped out everything they own. Though they live in Florida, this was an icy blast that turned their world upside down and sent them seeking shelter. In their time of need, help came from as far away as Indiana, as family and friends covered them in donations and love.
Seven days ago, a family rejoiced over the good outcome of a dangerous surgery on a nine-year-old who has been on a challenging path since birth. This little boy surprised them all with speedy recovery and a weak smile as his doctors stood by in amazement.
And just last night, a dear mid-wife friend drove through snowdrifts, down ice-covered roads to bring a new life into this world — then drove the treacherous route back to her own home, arriving safely just as dawn was breaking.
Then while snow covered our cars in the driveway, a house full of friends and family gathered to celebrate the 18th birthday of a young man bound for California and a new course of study. Good food, crazy wild games, hugs and well-wishes warmed up this terrible winter evening.
Isn’t that how beauty shows up in the midst of our terrible blasts? In the caring of friends and loved ones. In the cries of a newborn. In the smiles of one who is looking anxiously toward the future. In answers to prayers that go above and beyond what we had asked.
This snow-covered ground, the drifted road, the white swirling everywhere you look — there’s beauty in that, too. Right where we stand.
I tucked my camera in my pocket and finished clearing off our porch just as a fresh blast of snow swept across the field to the north. Where a moment ago, my world was bright with sunlight bouncing off snowdrifts, it was suddenly shrouded in a snowfall frenzy.
And there was beauty in that, too.