September 28, 2015

Of Clouds and Rainbows


 They sicken of the calm who know the storm. 
 - Dorothy Parker 

Each Sunday I teach 11 seven and eight year old children a Sunday school lesson. If you've never been in a room with that many seven and eight year olds, you're really missing something! The sheer energy and excitement in that space could power a small city for a week - if we could find a way to contain it - which I haven't. Moreover, the things I learn in my attempt to educate them on life, faith, and the undying love of Someone unseen to them, makes me wonder if I wasn't put in there to be taught instead of to teach.

A few weeks ago, one of my usual little firecrackers just wasn't herself. In fact I'm not sure who she was. Her normal effervescence and sparkling eyes had been replaced by a sullenness that was disturbing by contrast. It turned out that the cause for her demeanor had to do with another boy who's usually in the class. She'd seen him earlier in the day but he never made it to our room. She was worry stricken.

I pulled out all my best stuff trying to get her to cheer up but she was having none of it! At one point, she feigned a need to visit the "necessessarium" in order to investigate what had caused her friend to be absent. She returned saying she'd leaned that his family had to leave because he was bleeding.

More information did not make things better. In fact if her mood had been dark before - it was now black. She refused to open her eyes. Any attempt to speak to her was met with a turned head and folded arms. Even my suggestion that she call and check on him when she got home fell on deaf ears.

It was interesting to see that the lesson  earlier in the year about loving each other had taken root - but it was still hard to see her tortured.

After our lesson time, all the children's classes meet together. The children rotate turns addressing the entire group and giving a talk on an assigned topic, offering a prayer, or sharing a scripture. I never cease to be amazed watching these kids do with ease what most adults would rather be shot than do - speak in public! It brings to mind how brave we were before the world taught us to  be afraid of each other. Fear and unease are not our undefiled states. Those things are acquired over time and it's refreshing to see what pure trust and confidence looks like once a week.

During this time, my little brooder became darker still - even angry if someone spoke to her. I thought it best to give her space to work through her emotions without further intrusion so I let her be. She used the time to further steep in her anxiety.

A few minutes before we were to go home, I leaned toward her and whispered:  "If I have to go home today without seeing one of your beautiful smiles, I might not make it till next Sunday. I look forward to those smiles all week long!" To this, she folded her arms and snorted. 

Moments later her countenance changed. The scowl vanished and a peaceful look replaced it. She tilted her head toward me and  flashed the biggest forced grin I'd ever seen! Then - without warning - she exploded into a story of how she had seen a double rainbow. She told me how exciting it was and how it landed in a field. She was excited for me to know that she'd run to get her family and that pictures had been taken as proof it really happened. Then she said, with complete astonishment, "And the whole time, IT WAS RAINING!"

I explained to her that if it hadn't been raining, there couldn't have been a rainbow and how the rainbow gets even brighter when it's against a dark sky. She beamed at me with complete wonder - and in that moment it hit me! SHE had just become a rainbow! 

It was freshly clear to me why the rainbow is such a beautiful metaphor for hope. It's during the darkest hours that it can shine its brightest. The rainbows of our lives are those flickers of light that we see - if we're looking for them - just as we feel we may drown. The darker the circumstances the brighter the potential for the light to be. Life is stormy. Life can seem to be a dark and dangerous place. In that same space there is evidence of something more - something better if we can just hang on a little longer and let it take shape. That's not easy with the rain getting in our eyes and the winds beating against us, but in every storm there is the potential for something beautiful to appear and to transform us into something spectacular.

These aren't just flowery platitudes I'm sharing with you today. I'm speaking from my own experience of life. I've lived in the sunshine and basked in it's warmth. I've lived through the clouds. There have also been times when the skies have been so black that I'd almost given up hope of the light ever returning. After weathering each storm the light has come back and some of those storms have produced the most beautiful rainbows! Some came in the form of insight. Others - new people coming into my life to replace the ones who'd blown away. Once the blackness disperses and I've picked myself up and dried off, I've taken time to pick through the aftermath to see what's left - worth keeping.

I deeply believe that life isn't suppose to be all sunshine - and what a blessing that is! My greatest strength has come as a result of weathering storms, not basking in the sun. (Wear sunscreen by the way! You'll thank yourself in your 50's.) Storms - even the worst of them - carry trans-formative power. Just as the lightening nourishes the plants, so does adversity feed our souls if we drink deeply the lessons and experiences. We can also choose to reject those and dwell in bitterness but that leads to shriveling instead of growth.

I'm not going to tell you that you'll ever reach the point where you see dark clouds gathering and greet them with shrieks of excitement. What I will share though - and what's been true for me - is that the time may come when you can face them with wonder instead of horror and understand that they may just land you in OZ.

How about you? Have you learned to weather the inevitable storms in life? What insights can you share? How have you been made stronger?


  1. Wonderful insights here - for me it has taken time to understand that "this too shall pass", and that what seems insurmountable will inevitably shrink with time and some work.

    1. Those are great insights as well Jen! I use the phrase "This too shall pass" to keep me grounded as often as I use "This is not my circus. These are not my monkeys." to keep me from diving head first into situations that can only end badly with our without my help. Thanks for reading and adding your voice.

  2. And was the child OK? The one who had to leave because he was bleeding, I mean?

    1. Yes! How careless of me to omit the outcome of "her friend." It turned out that he had a scratch on his face and you know how face wounds bleed. The parents felt it better to take him home until it was under control.
      Thanks for asking Paula! You weren't the only one wondering!

  3. I've been with kids of eight and four, but it was the best experience of my life! I really enjoyed that moment enough to never forget it!

    1. I agree! Being around children is a joyful experience. They teach us how simple life can be. Thanks for dropping by!

  4. What a great post. I bet it's so rewarding teaching little ones about all things in life. You really wrote a beautiful post about weathering storms. This reminds me of a quote, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning how to dance in the rain!” Vivian Greene

    I've gone through some tough weathered storms, but I don't know if I've actually learned anything. The only thing I realized is these are the times where you see the true colors of family and friends. Blood doesn't always mean they have you in their best interests. If it wasn't for my husband, I don't know how my life would have turned out.

    But those weathered storms do make us stronger. It puts me in survival mode, and that's what keeps me going during the storms. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.

    1. I apologize for my delay in responding. Someone hit "fast forward" on my life without permission or warning. I hate when that happens!

      Teaching really is a rewarding experience Denise and what I learn about life through the simplicity of a child's eyes never ceases to amaze me. It reminds me of how many of the complications in my life are of my own doing. You're also spot on about stormy weather pointing out our fair weather friends (and in some cases - family.)

      I didn't learn much from my own adversity until I believed that there was a lesson in there somewhere and set out to find it. "Seek and ye shall find." Once I tuned in to "If there WAS something good that could come of this or lesson to be learned - what would it be?" it was like I was being hit upside the head with things that should have been obvious all along.

      I agree about growing stronger from our storms. I actually think adversity is the only way to develop resilience. Adversity isn't a fun teacher, but it sure is a good one! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Good to hear her little friend is OK.

    Giving birth was good practice for dealing with intense stuff. All was well with both my sons, but sometimes the end of the intense initiation is lousy and filled with grief. I learned how to get quiet inside by saying mantra or repeating a prayer. Sometimes just, "Help us, Mother" I follow my breath and focus energy in the soles of my feet, the place where I'm held up by whatever is beneath me. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I paint. Sometimes I go outside and look for beauty.

    1. Elaine,

      I love how you've found ways to deal with the intensity of life. Finding a quiet place inside to go to when the storm rages is a wonderful practice. It's something that can't be taken from you and is with you whenever you need it.

      Creative outlets not only provide that space but have the added benefit of adding beauty to the world - and we sure can use more of that!

      I can't believe I forgot to let people know the friend was doing well. I'm just the kind of person who would have wondered if I'd read this post somewhere else. :)