Finding grace at Intellicast

Nothing like a lesson drawn from a weather website. It seemed extra cold this year before winter even struck officially on December 21. The girls and I were bundling outside in day after day teen temperatures and having to talk loudly over the old house register as it drew the cold from our bones and warmed it in the new furnace. The porch thermometer gave the daily news, but how cold was it supposed to be? I clicked on Historic Averages and this is what I saw:

Clearly, we were off. I looked at the next two months to get an idea about how to brace ourselves, and the observation had an interesting affect on me. Try it. Pick the Average High column above and scan down through the days, continuing through the same column below in January and February.

The extremes are smoothed out. Just a one degree drop every few days, and another single degree drop a few days later, and then another, until an uneventful (though slightly extended) non-catastrophic bottom in January turns casually upward again, one degree every few days toward warmth. I can't say why this obvious pattern surprised me (It is a chart about averages, after all), but it did. Maybe it's because 2010 was so personally jagged. Emotionally high highs and low lows with enough intensity to keep me looking myopically at daily temperatures instead of historic averages. I know the sayings, "This, too, shall pass" and "What goes around comes around." In the middle of it all, however, you just see what immediately faces you.

As extremes go, this Friday, February 18, will be 61 degrees. And so this morning I remembered Dorothy Bass describing how the "recurring patterns of longing and fulfillment, of repentance and grace, encircle us again and again.... Over time, the round years accumulate into a thick line, and we find that we have been caught up in the story of God" (Receiving the Day). 

I didn't like 2010 in the way that I don't like 15 degrees and biting wind. Yet I love 2010 because this thickening line is my line, and, over the long, grace-filled haul, it really isn't all that jagged.   

Get a smoothed out perspective for your town at Intellicast.


Anonymous,  February 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM  

Great insight, Sam. I love the way you took a weather forecast and turned it into a moment of spiritual reflection. :)

2010 felt very jagged for my family, too, but that quote by Dorothy Bass is a great perspective. Thanks!

Melissa,  February 17, 2011 at 2:54 PM  

I love it Sam.

The high highs and low lows do hinder us from seeing the big picture...the one that God sees all the time. I'm thankful he's keeping that watchful and steadfast eye, and reminds me that He's in control when those lows, especially, cause me to wonder.

But in the end I wouldn't trade those extremes, in weather or in life, since they help form us into who we are by pushing us to our limits and beyond our comfort zone. And really, that's where God is, right? =)

Sam Van Eman February 21, 2011 at 9:01 AM  

Dena, her book was a good read for me many years ago and I still return to its insights.

Melissa, you make a helpful point. Perhaps the distinction comes in the timing of when I'm looking at any specific high or low. 2010 had extreme highs and lows but it was the lows that caused my suffering. In those moments I simply wanted out. I needed, then, to remember God's steady work in my life.

But now, several months removed from the toughest stretch, I can see how 2010 may turn out to be my favorite year (favorite, not most fun). No lows and no highs couldn't have achieved this status.

Christine February 26, 2011 at 9:11 AM  

So, was this winter colder than normal or did it just feel that way?

I wonder about this in life too. Does it just feel worse than it actually is sometimes, or is it really as bad as it feels?

It's tough to have an accurate view of things on our own, which is why trusted friends can be so helpful. They help us see the temperature of our lives more clearly

Sam Van Eman February 26, 2011 at 9:42 AM  

Definitely felt colder, Christine. And your point about friends is well taken. At the end (especially) of my 2010 tough stretch are stories about trusted friends.

Robbie Parks February 28, 2011 at 8:13 PM  

This is wonderful, Sam. I, too, didn't expect the averages to be so smooth as I read your article. And there were several cold days, this winter.

It was funny, on February 2, when the infamous Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. That gutsy groundhog has predicted six more weeks of winter so many times that I decided to hold him to his pledge. I cheer for early spring, and I blame the groundhog when it is cold again.

But even the cold isn't so bad, for it makes the somewhat-less-cold feel all the warmer. Relative temperature is another gift of God.

I leave you with a poem I found in a random book in Penn State's library:
"As a rule, man is a fool:
When it's hot, he wants it cool.
When it's cool, he wants it hot,
Always wanting what is not."

Sam Van Eman February 28, 2011 at 8:21 PM  

Clever find, Robbie. And the relative temperature mention came to mind this evening as we prayed with the kids. I thanked God for the "absolutely beautiful weather we'll be getting tomorrow."

Um, that would be 48 degrees. Compared to freezing, 48 is refreshingly balmy. But in the dead of summer?

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