Sometimes life gives us ice.
I woke up this morning, and since my coffee time is also my writing time, I said a quick prayer about what I should write about today. The only word I could hear was perseverance, so here I am, trying to find some words for you about perseverance. At first I had no words, but as I looked at the gray out the window, it started to come to me. While the rest of the country seems to be in an abnormally warm trend, our little part of the country is colder than usual. It’s no secret, I have said it dozens of times this month. I have Spring fever. Yes, I know that I live in the Rocky Mountains and that Spring isn’t even officially due for a few more weeks, however, this season has been long and hard. In the last fifteen years, this is the coldest, grayest winter I have seen. One thing I love about living at a high altitude, is the weather. It is so much different than anywhere else I have ever been. Even during the coldest months, we are so close to the sun that we get warm, sunny days. It is not abnormal to have sunny, forty or fifty degree days in January. At least occasionally. It doesn’t tend to get and stay extremely cold, and we almost always get a break from the cold, dreary days of winter. Not this year. This year is like the stories of old days Montana winters I have only heard, never experienced. Its gray. So gray. Endlessly, drearily, gray. It has been snowier than I have ever seen it, and the cold temperatures just won’t cease. Not even for a day of sunshine. It drags on, and on, and on.
The slideshow comes from an ice jam we had a few years ago. In January. It got warm enough to thaw and refreeze, and down river a ways, the ice caused a jam. So much frozen water backed up into our land. Everything was flooded. Somehow, thankfully, our driveway was the only one for miles that wasn’t under a frozen slush of river and ice. I am not talking a few inches here. The water was at bare minimum, knee deep across the road. There was no driving in or out. You wanna talk about perseverance, this is the best example I have. The local ranchers had to find alternative routes in and out of the area. Horses and livestock had to be pulled out in the middle of the night, after desperately looking everywhere they could find, for a safe place to pasture these glorious beasts. Once out, the ranchers could not get back in. They had to park in our driveway. Thank God it is large. I watched them, day in and day out, coming home from wherever their day required them to be (probably out checking on and caring for their displaced animals). I watched as they patiently got out of their trucks, and stepped into their waders in the freezing cold dark of evening, and slowly trudge their way to their respective homes, through the knee deep slushy muck and frozen pastures. Talk about perseverance. Some of them had to walk a mile or two. The police and fire folks used our driveway as home base. The last safe place they could drive to in order to keep an eye on the flood and the local community. Now, you have to understand that I live in a tiny ranch community just outside of a local college town. We don’t have a police department, we rely on the fire service to be our first responders. Never in my life have I been so happy to see police on a daily basis. They knocked on our door each morning to be sure we were ok, and that we made it through the night without taking on water. They were there in my driveway as I monitored the whole event, hoping and praying that the ice wouldn’t reach our front door. A friend tried to bring us food, and was told by the police monitoring the situation at the bridge, that it was a one time exception, that once he left today, they would not let him back in. He had to prove to them that we were not under water to be let through. Living in the mountains will teach you about perseverance, and sometimes in the blink of an eye. The situation lasted for weeks. Day in and day out, I watched the locals persevere. Despite a major obstacle in their way, they just continued to trudge through the murky waters until they subsided.
Life can be like that sometimes. Gray. Cold. Murky.
And we trudge on.
How often in our lives, do we feel like we move forward ten steps and back five? It can be so crushing, so defeating, when we finally feel we are moving forward and Bam! something smacks us back a few steps. This is where perseverance comes in. Where choice comes in. Do we sit back and cry. Do we helplessly stare at the cold murky waters and let them take us under? Or do we find ourselves forced to persevere? To choose to dig out the waders and tromp through the muck. Simple questions like this define us. Granted, if you have enough supplies on hand, and no animals to care for, you may be able to sit this one out. But lets be real. How often are people truly prepared in a time of crisis like this? Many of those people have jobs in town. Most simply did not have the option to sit it out. What choice did they have to take one more baby step forward, just to survive, despite this obvious setback? How many woke up and prayed each day, “Please God, let the water subside today”? And how many times were they answered with “Sorry kiddo, not today”. Our prayers aren’t always, or even often, answered in the way that we would choose them to be. That doesn’t mean give up. It often means find an alternative path, this one is closed today. It may mean maybe we are trying to follow a path that is unintended for us. Whatever the case may be, it never means, “give up”. We must persevere. We must always remember to take steps forward, even if they are baby steps. Even if we slide back five steps for every ten we take, we are still further along the path than we would have been with no baby steps.
Maybe you struggle with depression? It is not uncommon these days. I think more people struggle with debilitating mental health issues than ever before in history, but that is a topic for another day. My point is, there is a good chance that someone reading this is struggling to get up and persevere. Why else would God tell me to write about it today? I want to talk to you about baby steps. Baby steps will get you there. Baby steps give you a chance. Like learning to walk, one day at a time, we slowly get a little more sturdy, little less wobbly. Oh we will fall down, scrape our knee, bump our head, or bruise an elbow, many times, before we learn to run. But baby steps, teach us how to walk. No more crawling on the floor looking up at the world. Now we are upright, and staring it in the face. Maybe you don’t know what baby steps look like. Maybe you feel like you are drowning and have no idea how to even begin to put a foot on solid ground.”How do I begin? Where do I start? I am so overwhelmed I can’t even prioritize”. Maybe today you can’t prioritize. Maybe today you have to take just one baby step. Maybe today you have to just focus on whatever you can. Maybe they aren’t your top priorities, but they will get some burdens out of the way, and help you clear the murk enough to find your path. So, how do I do this? For me, when the water gets too murky, it looks like 10 minute tasks. I have a little timer, and when I can not find any focus or ambition, I use my timer. I pick a room or project, any room or project. Any task that seems feasible to me at the moment, and I work on it for ten minutes. I set my timer, because the tic tic tic of the minutes passing away drives me to move faster. I can go in my bathroom with a timer, and get the entire room wiped down in ten minutes, but without a timer it can take me an hour. I don’t know why, just that it is. Sometimes ten minutes seems like sooooo long, I have even resolved myself to five minute baby steps in the past. There have been days where getting three, 5 minute baby tasks done, was all I could muster, and I called those days success. Because when you are that broken, three, 5 minute baby tasks, is success. Slowly, from there, as the fog clears and you start to see under the surfaces you just wiped, priorities will emerge. Clarity will start to take hold, and you can gradually increase how many baby steps you take each day. Slowly, your steps will get longer, smoother, less wobbly. Perseverance. Like every other tool for success, you sometimes have to choose to force it. What are you being asked to persevere today? What are the obstacles that keep you from persevering? How can you think outside the box to get around those obstacles. What baby steps can you take today? Three, 5 minute chores? A walk around the block? Walking, by the way, is so good for you, that one day it will get it’s own post. Meanwhile, if depression and control of emotion is something you wrestle with, choosing to force yourself to get up and walk will reverse it faster than any other tool I have ever sharpened. Twenty minutes of elevated heart rate. A brisk walk. Scientifically, you WILL start to feel differently almost immediately at the twenty minute mark. There are many tools for controlling emotions. We are just talking about choice this week.
Will you choose to persevere?