How's the weather been in your part of the world? I know in the Northeast, they are still reeling from Superstorm Sandy's devastation. I led my students in prayer daily for those who were fighting the storm's wrath early last week. Frankly, I didn't realize the hurricane season lasted until November. I have always assumed hurricanes kind of petered out around September or so. I grew up in North Carolina (so you'd think I would know!), but we were inland---Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg---so all we ever dealt with were hurricane drills and fire drills. We never even got much snow during the winter; the mercury would drop below freezing and things would ice over badly, making for scary driving sometimes. If we ever did get snow, we would joke and say, "Time to shut down the state!" Literally, folks would be paralyzed, not knowing how to drive in the few inches we would get. Schools and government offices would close for the day, and kids would get some fun play time in the white stuff.
Then, the summer before my senior year of high school, my family moved to Northwest Indiana, right outside Chicago, IL. Talk about a culture shock! All that winter, it snowed constantly---and we never got one day off school for it! I learned really quickly how to drive in the snow because I had to........life continued as normal, even with drifts piled high. One night, I was coming home from the mid-week service; apparently the snow had been falling steadily all throughout the service time. Before the closing prayer, our preacher cautioned everyone to be extra careful driving home. We lived about 25 minutes away from church (normal driving time). My dad had purchased an old car for me to drive myself and my siblings to/from school and to teen activities and such. He, in his wisdom, did not choose a sporty model with a shiny paint job; he bought an old, heavy, dependable car that would get me where I needed to go with a minimum of fuss and not give me delusions of pride or racing ability! I didn't mind, really; I was glad to be able to drive a vehicle, and I was glad my parents trusted me with that responsibility. (My mom wouldn't touch that car with a ten-foot pole! She abhorred the design, the age, the color, everything.) I was never so thankful for my car as I was that Wednesday night when I had to drive home by myself from church (Dad had to work and Mom was home with a sick sibling) in the still-heavily falling snow. My old car idled at around 15 miles per hour, and that was as fast as I dared drive anyway that night! I hardly ever touched the gas pedal but kept my foot hovering over the brake all the way home. I had to take the freeway home, to make matters worse---I can't stand driving on the freeway; there are too many speedsters and crazy drivers out there! I remember taking the on-ramp, merging carefully with traffic in the farthest right line, and not budging from that lane until I reached the off-ramp for home! It took me twice as long, at least, to get home, but I made it, safe and sound.
The funny thing is, here in Washington State where we now live, the weather is very similar to where I grew up in NC. There is a lot more rain, of course, but very little snow in the winter. We get below freezing temperatures and lots of ice, and when it does snow, it tends to shut everything down! I (note the pride) know how to drive in the snow, but a lot of folks around here don't, so we are all extra careful. The biggest mistake people make when driving in snow is---they slow waaaayyyy down to be careful. Slowing some is right, but driving too slowly can cause you to get stuck sometimes; and you definitely need some extra speed to make it up a hill, such as the one on top of which our church is situated. Too many times, I've seen drivers start slowly up that hill, only to find themselves sliding back down because they don't have enough impetus to make it to the top. I'm thankful for my parents' patient instruction and the Lord's guiding hand in giving me the snow-driving experience I have.
Why am I talking about snow and ice? We started out the week with unseasonably warm weather: in the sixties almost, sunny, STRANGE! Then, on Thursday, something happened. The earth rotated or something, and somebody else got our nice weather! We walked out of church Wednesday night thinking, "It feels a bit chilly out here." When we walked out of our house Thursday morning, we thought, "Who turned down the thermostat?!" Overnight, the temperature dropped, everything frosted over, and we were left shivering madly. Friday morning was even worse; our house thermostat somehow was set on Saturday, which meant the heater wouldn't kick on until 7:30 instead of 6:30 (school mornings). We were freezing!!! I quickly got things corrected, but it was very difficult to get the kids up and going with the internal temperature only 62 degrees!
Last night, the temperature plummeted even further. When I left to pick up Dale from the teen activity at 8:00 p.m., the mercury was already at 33 degrees. WOW! By the time we reached home again, it had dropped to 29 degrees. Everything is white with frost this morning, making us think it snowed last night. And this is just November 10th! We were told that, because of our extended summer weather, we were going to get hit with a nasty winter; it looks like perhaps "they" were right!
NOW---about Dale. He has been walking all over God's creation on his own the last few days! Tuesday after school, I got held up in my classroom, trying to get a few last-minute things done. I had told my younger kids to head for the car so we could run some errands, then retracted that statement because something snagged my attention. (My classroom is situated on an outside wall; a few feet from my class door is a door leading outside to the parking lot where I park the van each day. There is a set of concrete steps to walk down to reach the parking lot, or one can choose to walk out the door, turn left, head down the sidewalk along the side of the building, walk down the ramp at the end, turn right, and go to our van.) Dale decided he had waited long enough for me and simply walked out the classroom door! He's done this a few times before; usually he waits just inside the door or outside on the sidewalk for me. It was a full ten minutes later when I was finally able to gather up my purse and stuff and prepare to leave. When I reached the hallway outside my classroom, I realized Dale was nowhere in sight. Naturally, I panicked! I pictured Dale in a heap somewhere, having fallen and been unable to get his feet back under him. I rushed outside onto the sidewalk and looked around wildly; Dale was nowhere in sight. I noticed the back lift door and one sliding door on our van was open. James, the seventh grade boy of the family who parks next to us, was putting his things in the back of his car, so I called to him and asked, "Is Dale in our van?" James seemed a bit surprised at this odd question but simply answered, "Yes, and so is Emily." Unbelievable! Dale had walked all the way outside, down the sidewalk, down the ramp, to our van, and climbed inside with no assistance whatsoever!!! WOW! Oh, thank You, God, for giving Dale a second chance to be independent. He needs this boost of confidence to counter all the dependency he knows he must endure still.
Since that day, Dale has been walking more and more by himself all around our school. The guys who help him from class to class are allowing Dale to walk on his own more without holding his hand, letting Dale show off going up and down the ramp by himself. Dale is walking around the house just beautifully now, rarely needing help. Someone still follows him up the stairs each night, but we can give him more room now (letting him go up half a flight without following close one step behind). I have to remind myself at night not to stand outside the bathroom door until he is situated---because no one ever has to do that in the mornings! Dale, after he gets dressed each morning, walks on his own to the bathroom to brush his teeth and such. He sometimes needs help in the mornings walking out to the car, but I think that's a combination of early-morning shakiness and habit. The more independence we give him, the more he believes he can handle. We're still working on the bathtub thing, but that is not such a big issue any more. Dale is really doing well, thanks to prayer and our God.
Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying for our son's continued recovery. When they told us back in the hospital over a year ago that "this is not a sprint; it's a marathon", I had no idea what they really meant. Dale has recovered some things very quickly---his speech, his memory, his sense of humor. Some things are still being recovered bit by bit---walking, balancing, etc. Yesterday in my classroom, Dale was drawing on my board when he dropped the eraser. He said, "Oh, no!" and leaned down, picked it up, and put it back on the tray. When he saw my smile, he questioned me, so I explained, "Dale, you used to panic at even the thought of having to bend over and pick something up off the ground. You would shake and jerk and fall over......literally! Now, you just bend down---even bending your knees slightly---and pick things up with no trouble whatsoever." Praise the Lord! Dale will do this at home as well, picking up and moving something that may be in his path. He will even take larger steps than normal if he needs to step over something. This used to be out of the question for him! Some morning this week, Dale dropped the cap off the toothpaste tube.......nothing new there. I, frankly, was tired of picking it up for him, so I said, "Can you get it?" He replied, "No---oh, wait; maybe I can." A few seconds (and some interesting sounds) later, he said, "I got it!" It takes quite a lot of strength for me to stand still and let him possibly fall over in order to prove to himself that there is yet one more thing he can do again.
Our whole family, our whole church, and lots of you around the nation (and world) are all involved in God's ongoing miracle in our son's life. When we all get to Heaven and finally get to meet each other, expect a big hug from me and a teary "thank you" for each prayer and loving thought you've sent our way. God bless each of you, and have a great week!
Psalm 23: 1 "The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want."