Pat and I have spent a fair amount of time during our 40 years of marriage on the highway. In the early days, as family members married, scattering up and down the East Coast, travel became a necessity. It was essential if we were to maintain relationships with our siblings. Over the course of time, families grew and friends relocated, so the extent of our miles on the highways and byways did as well. It seems we are constantly planning where the road will lead us next.
Our three married children settled in the south with our six grands so there’s a good chance we’re hitting Interstate 81 south; especially during the winter months when the air in Central New York has the bite of bitter chill. It has, however, become a bit bizarre to witness the storms that seem to follow us when we visit them. We endure unending chiding by friends and family who seem to experience weather-related storms in their region whenever we are there.
Storms have prevented us from departing and delayed our plans. This was the case in January of 2022 when a winter storm rolled over Virginia while we celebrated family Christmas with our kids. We spent three extra days with them while Virginians cleaned up the snow. A few have warranted an early exit.
In early February we were visiting family in Western New York, enjoying a game of Five Crowns with my parents when the news began to report the likelihood of, yet, one more severe winter storm headed our way. After discussion and continued updates we decided it was best to leave a day early and head back home.
The moment Pat turned the car left to approach the New York State Thruway entrance, my eyes fell to a sign flashing these words of warning; Adjust to Conditions; Winter Weather Expected. As our wheels rolled past the monstrous, flashing sign, Pat sighed his displeasure and said, “Great. Just what we need – another winter storm.” We were stormed out.
Immediately I became keenly aware that I was now hostage to one of my deepest fears; I was a passenger in a car on the Interstate with a snowstorm threatening us from behind. After suffering the loss of a dear friend because of sloppy winter roads, this is one place I'd rather not be. I began to prepare myself mentally (and quietly for Pat's sake) for what might be a treacherous ride home. I began to repeat:
Deep breath, Kolleen.
It’s not snowing yet, Kolleen.
You’ll make it home, Kolleen.
God's in control, Kolleen
The sign was no longer in sight but the flashing words adjust to conditions captured my thoughts. My focus turned from the impending winter storm to contemplating the call to adjust. The sign on the Thruway was a warning to drivers of the possibility that they would need to adjust or adapt to the changing conditions of weather; yet, in that moment, I felt a challenge rise in the form of a question, How adaptable are you to the changing conditions in your life?
Deep breath, Kolleen.
Answer honestly, Kolleen.
While I didn't like to admit it, I knew the honest answer was not that well. It's a struggle for me to adjust to conditions that are out of my control. What I did not realize in that moment was this would be the theme of the year 2022 for my life. (Many people have a word for the year, well, I had three: adjust to conditions). I had no idea that the words on a flashing sign would be used to speak to the circumstances in my life. But, they have.
Over and over, in every unexpected and unforeseen situation I am drawn back to the words flashing on a sign: adjust to conditions.
When news came that our daughter's family would relocate from 15 miles away to over 800.
The death of Pat's dad
Several cancer diagnosis' or illness' of friends and family.
Disappointments and loss.
Frustrations and fear.
Last year was the year to adjust to a new perspective within unpleasant conditions. When the unplanned left me a bit rattled the still small voice whispered, you can adjust to conditions, Kolleen. I've been steadied by the reminder that my response is a reflection of another adjustment I made years ago. The adjustment in my identity. When I called on the name of the Jesus I found a new identity in Christ. I also hold tightly to God's promise from Isaiah, "Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand" (vs. 41:10, NLT).
Regardless of what comes my way faith tells me that God will provide me with all that I need to adjust. Internally and externally. This year, the journey continues as I learn how to adjust to conditions because I know winter weather can be expected.