New Castle News

August 6, 2012

Lisa Madras: If you're looking for a sign, this is it.

Lisa Madras
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — "Do you recognize a sign when you see it?"

There are signs in this life that are easy to ignore, and ones that aren’t.

As usual, I seem to be going through a rough patch… it seems like the last four years or so have seen an unfair amount of tempests and choppy waters punctuated with only the occasional smooth sailing.  Most days, I'm exhausted from weathering the storms, and even the moments of calm are spent recuperating and preparing for the next onslaught.

And as hard as I try to watch for any signs that I’m on the right course, I try just as hard to gather the tools I need to make sure my compass is indeed pointed in the right direction, and to maintain enough inspiration to keep believing the journey is worthwhile.

The monkeys in my head are terrible companions, and as you can imagine, leave most of my days in complete chaos, and sometimes even utter destruction—the chattering in my head of worries and anxieties and conversations never had and the anger and the grief keep me from accomplishing my task of healing and moving on.

But every once in a while, and I’m not sure why, the chattering stops and the calm sets in.  And these moments, my friend, are the moments that sustain me throughout the rest of the storm. It is in these moments that I feel the strength and the courage and the inspiration that I need to keep forging forward, to convince myself that there is hope just over the horizon, that even though I can’t see it now, it is there waiting for me, a promise in my heart that I believe with utter and unshakable faith. I believe that God gives me these moments when I need them the most.

One evening last week, I’d dropped my daughter off for vacation bible school at a church up on the North Hill. It was the night of one of the terrible storms we’d been having and tree branches were down on virtually every road leading to the church, and clean-up crews worked frantically to clear the debris before the next round of storms hit. Getting into the church was challenging.  It was getting out that made me lose my bearings.

As I said, I’ve been going through a rough patch, and once my daughter was safely inside the church, I sat in my car in the parking lot and sobbed into my steering wheel for a good 15 minutes.  It was a cry that had been coming for several weeks and there was just something about the endless rain and maybe even being in one of God’s parking lots that had finally brought the much-needed release.

I dried my tears and promptly took a wrong turn out of the parking lot. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to end up on the country roads somewhere around Laurel Township, although I didn’t know at all where I was at the time. I drove and drove and drove, certain I would eventually find a familiar landmark.

Nuthin.

My GPS, of course, cheerily informed me that I was in an area with too weak a signal to pick up my location. Of course I was. Of course.

Somehow, I had managed to get myself completely and utterly lost in a small town that I had previously been certain I knew like the back of my own hand... lost in between one storm and the next, blindly trying to find myself before the next onslaught.

Sure, the whole storm thing is pretty cliche, but cliches are what they are because they're so right most of the time. And since God himself was probably getting frustrated by my obliviousness to the subtle signs, he knocked down a couple of trees, plopped me in the middle of nowhere, and dumped a couple billion gallons of water on my head.

"If you're looking for a sign, this is it."

I was lost, and scared, and I wanted to cry again. I'd never felt so alone in my life. But I drove, and I didn't cry, and by some miraculous turn of fate, I ended up in front of my house just as the clouds disappeared and the sun came through. I wondered if this was a sign that the storm my life had become was finally over. I know that I felt a calmness that I hadn't felt in long time, and I closed my eyes and turned my face toward the warm glow of the sun. It felt so good following the damp and the darkness.

I realize now that I was headed in the wrong direction all along, and that nobody is going to drive me out of this storm but myself. I've also discovered that when you feel the most alone is when you realize you actually aren't. And I've learned that the storms themselves draw a strength out of you that the calm times never will.

Oh, and don't worry... I made it back to the church in plenty of time to pick up my daughter. 

I grabbed her little hand as we walked down the church steps, and we both giggled and ran for the car as the heavens opened up once more.