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Peace in the Storm

Christian speaker and writer Ron Hutchcraft tells the story of an art gallery that ran a competition for painters, offering a prize for the best painting on the subject of peace. The prize-winner was a real surprise: It showed the ocean in a violent storm, with lightning in the sky and waves crashing into cliffs by the shore. So where was the peace? You had to look carefully. Halfway up the cliff was a bird’s nest tucked into a hollow in the rock, and there a mother bird was sitting on the nest with her little babies safely underneath her. That was peace — not the absence of a storm, but safety in the middle of the storm.

This week I feel as if I have been in a storm. Starting school both in person and online for elementary students during the middle of a pandemic is like nothing I have ever done before. It has been trying and tiring. As a school we are doing things we have never done before. And while in my view it has been a very good opening after 5 months away, the metaphor of a storm is still quite accurate.

In fact, as God perhaps proving that he has a sense of humor, the very moment we opened the door for students at 7am Monday, a thunderstorm began its deluge. The storm, which was part of the bands of hurricane Isaias, let loose with rain, wind, thunder and lightning. I began day one of the return to school soaked by the time car rider duty was over. Thank goodness I keep an extra pair of dry socks in my office!

Additionally, like any new endeavor we have had a few problems to resolve. Some big and some small, but all led to extra hours and a sense of mental and physical fatigue. All work has moments of stress but the stress, unease and even a bit of fear of this week has left me feeling anything but at peace.

This morning (Wednesday) I woke up wondering what I had done in choosing this career. I lay in bed tired…I had slept poorly and really wondered what excuse I could come up with not to go to work. Alas I could not come up with a good or even reasonable one, so I trudged onward. In the car on the way to work I heard some not so flattering things on the news about education and schools opening to meet in person. I could literally feel my chest tighten and my shoulders begin to ache from stress.

I turned off the radio and drove the rest of the way in silence.

I wish I could say I got in the parking lot and saw the building and felt better. I did not.

I came in and sat my stuff down and walked to my boss’s office and she also seemed a bit tired and stressed. Or maybe even more than a bit. We had so much going on – I felt so many worries…so many items were on the to-do list…so much unknown. It felt like the winds were blowing me to and fro.

But then as God so often provides — if you look for it — a moment of peace arrived. Our super kind media specialist brought breakfast to us. Just two bagels but they were delivered by two smiling stress-free girls. The oldest girl began cheerfully chatting with the principal’s son who had been sitting there waiting to go to class, and the youngest whom I have known since she was in preschool exchanged air hugs with me. In the smiles of those three kids and the air hugs of that bouncy first grader, I found peace in the storm. Perhaps it is because I remembered my purpose and my calling to education. Perhaps it was because I was reminded of the gift children have of finding joy in simply being alive. Or perhaps it was simply one of those “God moments” you can’t readily explain.

Whatever it was the peace stayed with me throughout the day – even in the midst of the storm… even in the midst of the day’s difficulties.

Throughout the day as I remembered the morning’s “breakfast,” I would also recall the two scripture passages that follow. I pray they give you peace in the midst of “your storms” just as they did for me today.

Matthew 19:13-14

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Mark 4:35-41

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

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