Shoveling with St. Francis

Pine tree with bent topWinter arrived in Omaha this week. We don’t have as much snow as Buffalo or Boston or Bangor, but we have what I consider to be our share. It came on Saturday, canceling church on Sunday, and it came again today, Wednesday, causing another snow day.

It came mostly today after Steve left for work, and if I was going to get out I would have to shovel. My small snowblower is busted and Steve’s is too big for me to handle, so the shovel would have to be my tool.

I was facing another 4” in our lengthy driveway, and thought if I could just shovel the top part I could make it out to the office.

Wrong.

Two hours later I am back in the living room, boots off, jean bottoms soggy with melting snow and a pulled muscle in my left arm. No getting out today.

And the thing is, I went out to do the task in the darkest of moods. More snow? Sheesh! Can’t winter which just arrived on Saturday be over already?

When it was just Jana and me on Chicago Street, we had an equally long driveway, front stoop and stairs and miles of sidewalk to clear as we lived on a corner. And once my dad got that snowblower for me, I would head out and clear it all, even doing the whole west sidewalk to the next block! Steve and I have made a great team here on Happy Hollow Boulevard with our his-and-hers snowblowers, but mine is twenty years old and out of commission. I knew the shoveling would be hard, and it was. I am older now and don’t have the strength. My weakness makes me mad and grumbly.

So I knew it would be rough, but amazingly, there was this blessing of quiet time where all the cares of the world just rolled off my shoulders.

Without the noise of the gas engine turning the turbine of the blower, there was the sound of the wind in the pine trees, which reach to the sky. And the sky was this beautiful shade of pale grey blue as the clouds were dissipating. The sound of the wind in those tall graceful trees was like music.

And that’s when I realized there was music, too.

“All creatures of our God and king. Lift up your voice and with us sing. Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Dundee Church towerThe carillon at Dundee Presbyterian Church was playing this wonderful old hymn, written by my favorite saint, Francis.

“Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!”

And I just sang along as I shoveled, the trees keeping a rhythm with the gentle blowing of the wind. It was a moment of worship. And I took the time to pray a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving for turning my grumbling heart to joyful praise.

I came inside, arm hurting, soggy jeans and all, to look up the story of St. Francis’ glorious hymn. And what I discovered is that he was paraphrasing Psalm 148, which begins this way:

Praise the Lord!
 Praise the Lord from the heavens; 
praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels;
 praise him, all his host!

And down a bit further in verses 7 and 8, after the psalmist has exhorted sun and moon and stars and so much of the rest of creation to praise God, he says this:

Praise the Lord from the earth,
 you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Snow and frost and stormy wind: Praise the Lord!

Julie B. with pulled muscle and soggy jeans: Praise the Lord!

How could I not? And so I do!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Amen.

Sunday snow

Elmwood panorama 1

My first thought upon waking up today was to be mad at the weatherman.

Friday’s forecast: snow coming for Saturday night. Total of a trace to an inch.

This is the kind of winter storm forecast I love. I’ve gotten kind of grumpy about snow as I get older. My dad moved to the ninth floor of an Omaha high rise in 2000 and laughed at the rest of us. “It can snow as much as it wants. I live on the ninth floor!” and then he would smile.

It was snowing when I got up on Saturday morning. So much for the timing of this negligible snow that the weatherman had told us about.

It was snowing when we went to the grocery store. Sloppy stuff that was pretty while it was falling, but it was slushy on the drive, on the walks and in the parking lots.

It got to be the inch pretty quickly. Sheesh! We would probably have to shovel.

Upon waking up this morning, Sunday, it was still coming down. Steve had gotten up and out to start moving it and popped his head in the kitchen to tell me it was about six inches so far. Heavy. Wet. Six inches. And still coming down.

God bless this husband of mine. He knew Jana and I wanted to get to church and he actually moved enough out of the driveway for the little red Mini to head out. I had talked to the pastor already and he wasn’t canceling, so Jana and I proceeded through the gray landscape, trying to take the route that would be the most clear and the safest.

Arriving at church to find one car, we went into the dark space. No power. I guess I should have realized it would be that way when we drove through intersections with no stoplights working. The power came on about that same time, but we discovered that our pastor had decided to cancel just before we got there, so home we drove.

And I must say, I was so glad we had made the trip. The beauty of what God had done overnight was overwhelming. The amazing sight of a black and white and gray world was a gift to me. With hardly anyone moving through the city by car or foot, the snow blankets everything wherever you look. The trees outside our windows which are thick with leaves in the spring and summer, are just as thickly coated with snow right now. The temperatures were in the 30s yesterday when it started, and so the wet branches are holding on to every flake that came after. It is just beautiful!

Elmwood panorama 2

Just like when we were kids all those decades ago, pulling out our sleds to make multiple trips down the big hill behind our house, the kids in this neighborhood have hit the hill across the street. Good for them!

I had to call the television stations to let them know that West Hills Church’s youth group would not be meeting this evening for their Super Bowl party. On the call to KMTV-3, I had this conversation:

“Channel 3 newsroom, this is Jim.”

“Hello Jim. I’ve got to change our church’s weather cancellation. We aren’t just canceling services today, but all evening activities, too.”

“Okay. We’ll take care of that.”

“Thank you! Did you say your name was Jim? Are you Jim Flowers?”

“Why yes, I am.”

Snow from front car windowJim Flowers is the chief meteorologist for Channel 3. The same guy I was mad at when I woke up. Somehow, the trace to one inch of snow had become the six to eight inches Steve was clearing out of the driveway, and still coming down. But something had changed since I had made that drive through the beauty of my city on the way to a church service which had been cancelled after I left the driveway.

I was able to see this glorious beauty with different eyes.

“Thank you, Jim, for the snow! It’s beautiful! The trees are amazing and the landscape is a winter wonderland.”

“You’re the first person to say ‘thank you’ to me for the snow! I bet it is beautiful.”

“Have a great day. I hope you get to enjoy it like I have.”

I hope you get to enjoy it, too. A trace of snow has never been more beautiful.