Snow road rage

It was Sunday morning, and it had been snowing all night. When I drove home from my sister’s the evening before, it had been snowing for hours and the roads were already hazardous.

So you can understand why an unbridled rage came over me as I approached the highway on Sunday morning, in Minnesota where it snows in the winter, and the highway hadn’t been plowed.

Not at all.

(I say “not at all” and mean that there was no evidence of any plowing. The road roughly resembled a plate of mashed potatoes. I have no proof other than my word.)

So here I am, in my lightweight little fishtailer of a car, trying to get to church, cursing myself for moving more than five minutes away, cursing MnDOT for not plowing (they have 1 JOB in the winter. 1 JOB), and cursing the universe that I got up earlier than normal, left my apartment earlier than normal, and I still wasn’t going to make it to the choir warm-up. I was driving safely, with the caution that would get me there alive. But none of it would pay off in the ways I wanted it to, the way I’m planned it.

I do not kid you with the words “unbridled rage.” If you know me very well, you can probably picture that. If you do not, you may not be able to imagine the growling.

I tried to calm down. I brought Jesus into it. “Jesus, be a snowplow,” I said, as another truck with 4-Wheel Drive zoomed past me without any caution at all. Jesus was not a snowplow in that moment.

Oh, yes, another object of my rage: people who drive like there is no snow and tail you for going 40 because if you go any faster (and believe me, I’ve tried), you will spin out and die.

There was a lot of rage. It wasn’t really a great start for a Sunday morning. Headed to worship with these wonderful sentiments on my lips, “STAY BACK. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. WHERE ARE THE DARN PLOWS?”

Winter is a good time for me to remember how little is in my control. That I can’t make the traffic behave. I can’t get the highways plowed. Sometimes, even allowing way more than enough time… isn’t actually enough. I can’t control other people’s driving (OH THAT I COULD). I can’t control the temperatures or when the wind blows and how cold it is when it does blow. I can’t make my car heat up any faster than it does. I cannot stop it from snowing when I have to drive somewhere.

Will winter teach me to be laid back? Will she show me the insanity of my ways, always thinking that I can fix things?


Most likely not.

I think I might just try to drive in snow less.

Smooth and bumpy

On this day sixteen years ago, I lost my first tooth. I believe this was the one that actually got lost, as in jetted out of my mouth in the kindergarten play kitchen and was never seen again.

By “never seen again,” I mean, of course, that I never saw it again, but odds are, someone else did and had a horrid realization that what they had found was, indeed, a human baby tooth.

I’ve come a long way since that day.

Today, I drove my car through multiple inches of snow and fishtailed beautifully (and got myself out of the perpendicular-to-traffic position quite nicely without freaking out). I closed the store by myself for the first time (though “by myself” includes relying heavily on the sales associate who was with me and making two phone calls to another sales lead).

And I did it with all my adult teeth in my mouth.

I had two small, panicky breakdowns this week about the job search. Not car breakdowns. Ashley breakdowns. Just two. A little anxiety over networking and feeling like anything I do will be fruitless and a little uncertainty about where I’ll be working in a couple months. Everything feels bumpy right now. There are few answers and lots of questions, which feels a lot like driving an old car down the highway at 70 miles per hour and hearing the wind blow.

I’ve been driving on the highway a lot lately, going in and out of Minneapolis, back and forth from Eden Prairie (where my sister lives). My car is your typical I-just-graduated-and-got-my-dad’s-old-car vehicle. It’s a lightweight, so on the highway it kind of veers when the wind blows. Also, it’s old and when you drive super fast it sounds like all the colors of the wind are in the car with you.

My friend at church asked about my job search this past Sunday. He’s on the other end of this. He’ll retire in a few years. And I told him I hadn’t heard anything back from my applications and had a couple small panics about it. He gave a knowing nod, just like yep, that’s how it is. I told him I sometimes wonder if my resume is any good. “I mean, I thought it was. I know it’s just second-guessing everything because they haven’t gotten back to me.”

He said, “Yep.”

That’s about all I needed to feel understood. the self-doubt, the insecurity, the impatience is normal. He remembers that. It’s a phase, a bumpy phase before having something more secure. He was there at one point.

My dad’s car, which I drove on Sunday, is more solid than mine. It’s about eight years newer, same make and model. Something happened in those eight years to make the rider smoother. You can’t hear the cyclones outside when you drive in his car. The wind doesn’t have as much effect on the car. It has a few amenities that mine doesn’t have (a CD player, auxiliary port, automatic transmission, and radio controls on the steering wheel). Nothing luxury, but it sure does feel different.

As I drove his car, I thought about how much more in control I felt. Driving was easier. It was simpler. But if you asked me if I wanted to trade cars with him, I wouldn’t. I’m doing my time with an old car, caring for it in its old age, wearing it down until it won’t run any more. I’m learning to operate in less optimal conditions, knowing that when I’m forced to buy a car when mine dies, it’ll be an easier ride, something a little nicer.

Just the same, I wouldn’t trade the job search for being in a secure job right now.

Well, maybe I would.

But I know that this process of waiting and wondering and connecting and reaching out and networking and searching is molding me and teaching me. The time spent here is valuable. Where I could have had a job right away, there’s something about going through the bumps of the process that I know is worth it. I’m here because I’m learning, and learning is often a bumpy process.

It’s worth it to be here.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to get through the next week before I have the same breakdown.

Violence on a full tank.

I drove into the first glow of morning today, on my way back from taking my parents and brother-in-law’s parents to the airport. In my sleepy, early-morning stupor, I thought at first that the mix of light and gloomy gray clouds was the reflection of headlights, but I soon realized that something much brighter was shining from the other side. I would be dead to the world for the sun’s official arrival, trying to make up for lost sleep before church, but as I rolled toward the rising sun, I thought about war.

In Judges 7, the passage I read as I gulped down a yogurt at 4am, Gideon takes a whole bunch of men to fight Midian. God tells him that he would rather deliver Israel with a small fraction of the men Gideon thought he needed, so that way it’s obvious that it was God’s power that delivered them.

And God’s power did deliver them. He caused the Midianites to turn on each other as the small band of Israelites attacked, which made the job significantly easier.

God did some attacking. He sponsored the Israelites violent campaign, actually instigated it.

So, when should I get violent?

I kept driving down the highway, picturing one of my favorite professors as I thought. He wasn’t very open about his opinions in the class I took with him last spring, but he did own up to one specific belief.

“I’m a pacifist,” he admitted with one of his signature hand gestures, as if to say well, there’s that. Do with it what you like.

And, since I admire the man greatly, my first thought was whether I should be a pacifist, too. If nonviolence was good enough for him, it was good enough for me.

I think about how often I respond to people violently, harsh words or looks that could kill. I think about the times I’ve wanted to rear-end someone for being inconsiderate on the road (a nonsensical response). Violence doesn’t seem to be a good first response. Speaking of first responders, what if that was the paramedics’ first step? If you can survive this, we’ll give you CPR and take you to the hospital…

But God did it.

I know, that shouldn’t be my criteria for whether or not my actions are just. I should not get out my garden hose and try to flood the earth. I’m just following God, Officer. Really! God has a few advantages on me, the knowledge and the goodness and the power, which give him supreme ability to take care of things.

God’s track record in the Old Testament is filled with patience. He waited hundreds of years before passing harsh judgment on evil people groups (evil not only because they didn’t follow him but because they had vile practices like temple prostitution and infant sacrifice, among others). He was patience with them, gentle even.

It seems that was God’s first response, which matches up with what we see in Galatians.

“For the fruit of the Spirit is violence, judgment…”

Nope. But gentleness, kindness, and self-control are on there, along with patience and peace.

It seems like violence is our last resort. Or at least, it’s God’s. Whether we’re allowed to go that far… I don’t know. I know I’ve been in situation where it seems the only way that the person I’m trying to speak truth to will hear and understand is if I yell and shake them and threaten and dangle them by the ankles off the side of a tall building.

From what I’ve seen of God’s responses to people in the Bible and from his responses to me, gentleness is the status quo. I don’t know what exactly that means for nations and people groups and businessmen, but for me, it means that I need an extra dose of the Holy Spirit.

And probably more sleep than I got last night. Fill the tank, people. Fill the tank.

Making a lane.

Last night, we had a bachelorette party for my sister, full of laughter, food, and people who are dear to her. We went ice skating (outside! It was around 20 degrees for the first time in about a week, so we had good timing) and out to dinner. The weather was fine while we skated (though a little chilly), but when we came out of the restaurant a few hours later, we were met by freezing rain.

Mmm, lovely. One of the joys of winter.

I creeped along the highway in Audrey, singing along to the radio and praying that I wouldn’t spin out. 40 mph all the way home, about 20 miles. The freezing rain made a nice white slush on the road, masking the lane divisions just enough to make me nervous. Fortunately, there were other people out on the highway as well, so I could follow them. Even if they weren’t exactly centered in the lane, at least there was a train of cars to make it obvious that we think this is where the lane is. In addition to wanting to make sure that I was in some kind of lane, Audrey’s a light little thing, so it’s always better to stay in the tracks of those who have gone before.

I tend to not be a follower. Why do what someone else has done if you can make your own path and do something new and adventurous? It’s my deep need for individuality. Something about being a second child. But last night, I found that I really needed to follow these strangers.

I wondered about them. Were they nervous about the slick roads, like me? Were they just as oh well, we’ll just hope we don’t cause any problems by not knowing if we’re actually in a lane as I was? Did they have some trepidation about following the person in front of them? Do we all have trust issues?

And I suppose there had to be someone at the front, really feeling the pressure to lead these people well. Or maybe everyone was following someone else.

Maybe we’re all followers. And if we’re not, maybe we need to be. Maybe it’s just all about who you follow. Maybe it’s okay to not blaze your own trail – or maybe you haven’t ever really done that… it was just a little overgrown when you found it – and to go where others have travelled.

Maybe what matters is that Jesus is our initial trail blazer. Maybe if we just adhere to that and follow, we’ll stay off the shoulder and in a lane of sorts, continuing on our journey rather than being out of commission on the side of the road.

Amazing what a long, perilous drive in freezing rain that eventually turns to gigantic snowflakes can make you think of.

Metaphors for life.

DSCN4926Tonight, as we ate a hot fudge sundae out of a seashell-shaped bowl at Margie’s Candies (actually not our original destination, but we missed our stop while I was giving someone directions to Navy Pier… ice cream was a good back-up plan), Liesel realized that our beautiful sundae was a great metaphor for our friendship.

I am the mint chocolate chip scoop.  She’s the coffee ice cream.  Those two flavors complement each other oddly well.  She doesn’t like whipped cream, and I’m not a huge fan of nuts on my ice cream.  So, naturally, we took care of those for each other.  In addition to that, all the things we have in common are like the hot fudge that is drizzled over the whole thing.

It was a beautiful picture.  And a tasty sundae.

As you may have noticed, I did a little bit of re-vamping on my blog this week.  The sidebar looks different.  There’s a tag cloud there now, where there used to be archives.  (I’m sure that doesn’t seem like a huge difference to you, but trust me, it’s big.)  Wordpress takes all the tags that I add to my posts, and they put the most-used ones on there.  I’m pretty proud to have “cupcakes” listed on there, as well as “juice of life.”

This is going to sound cheesy, but it’s really not cheesy or sappy: I want Jesus to always have the biggest tag in my tag cloud.  Is that a weird, blogger-oriented metaphor?

Sometimes, I make Jesus ride in the backseat.  Sometimes I even try to remind Him to put his seatbelt on.  And then I make Him duck when we drive past certain people who might not want to see Him.

That’s not where He belongs.  He belongs in the front seat, driving.  He’s the one who reminds me to put my seatbelt on, and He probably should be ashamed to be seen with me in public.  But He’s not.

So, as part of my efforts to keep Jesus in the front seat, He’ll also always be the biggest in my tag cloud.

Commence weekend with Jesus.