Casting Crowns’ “Praise you In This Storm” is playing on my radio.
I feel there is a storm, yet no storm in my life. No. There’s a storm, just no rain.

It is spring, an unusually warm spring for northern Minnesota. The month of March has been unusually mild and dry. This is the first spring I can remember in which I haven’t seen puddles calling to be sloshed through.

I am at the most tense time in my life. I have never before felt such tension – physical, emotional, mental – not even in my last year of high school. Every part of me feels drained, stretched to the breaking point. I wonder when I will break. If I will.
Then I wonder why in the world I feel this way. After all, I may not have any plans that look as if they will fall into place, but I know the perfect Planner. He is so great He knows how to manipulate Time to suit his plans. Organization and attention to detail are His specialties. Yet, in spite of all that head knowledge, my head is tired and refuses to understand. Coming up repeatedly against brick walls tends to have that effect, I’ve learned.

The thunder cracks across the empty space. I feel it, know there is nothing I can do to halt it or change its course. I cannot move. Nor can I move it.

Lately, friends have been one of the sources of tension in my life. I always get a feeling of restlessness in the spring, feel that I should be more than I am, should be doing more than I’ve done; sometimes that feeling extends to relationships. I feel oddly dependent on people around this time of year for some strange reason. Yet I also feel most alone. I have not, however, had this sort of dependency before. I have had inexplicable, irrational compulsions to be with certain friends before, to simply be near them and know that they are alright. But I have not had so many friends depend on me before.
I feel that somehow, I’m letting them down. Yet I also wonder why they are not there for me. It’s very odd. Like the thunder, I cannot change it, cannot halt it. I can simply listen and hope to predict its next explosion.
I often think I listen, but no one listens back. Like the spring earth that gets dried by the warmth of the sun, but misses the rejuvenating rainfall.

Listening to friends is necessary, often enjoyable. Yet I need the rain. I need people to just listen, but not merely listen, to actively hear. It is not selfish. It is not arrogant. It is simply true.
How can I praise God in this? I feel weak, yet I must be strong for others. I feel drained, dry, but I must refresh others. I feel a responsibility for them that even they do not realize, or expect me to. That is where I praise God by giving them over to Him. Lifting them up to His perfect care, crying out for Him to carry them instead of me. I praise God by trusting that He is enough for me, that I need not rely on others to refresh my spirit. I praise God by thanking Him when others do come along and encourage me, to take the time to listen to what I’m feeling, experiencing, struggling with, then provide wise counsel when needed.

The scent of spring is in the air. The sun has warmed the grass, although everything has not yet greened. I feel that I am being stretched into something, I am growing into a mold I have not yet seen. I am almost an independent adult. But there are so many ways I am incredibly unprepared for that label. I need a dream. Or perhaps I need to stop dreaming. I’m not sure yet. I haven’t greened up enough yet. But I can praise God in the storm by abandoning my self-focus, allowing myself to appreciate the grandeur of the storm He has sent. Recognizing that there is so much more than myself in the world, that I am not my only hope, that He is my sole savior, is almost as refreshing as the rains that swell the streams and scent the air with their fresh coolness.

The sound and light of the storm swirl madly in a celestial chasing. Their crazy tangles mirror my thoughts. Mentally, I’m exhausted. I’ve chased myself in circles for the past year. What if I do this? What if I am not gifted enough to do that? What if it has nothing to do with natural talent but depends only on work or dedication? How much work can I put into it? How much should I? What do I want? What do I really want? What does GOD want? I cannot think any longer for thinking, thinking has made me blind. I can praise God by thinking on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. I can praise God by streamlining my mind, focusing on His perfection.

I have always been afraid of lightning. Ever since I was three and watched lightning strike an object a few yards away from me, I have feared its ability to destroy. I often fear my own ability to destroy. I see what I should be doing, try to measure up to some perfection. I see someone succeed at something. I think I should be able to do it better. And WHACK! , I have destroyed part of myself. Or I do not succeed like I think I should at something. Then I immediately blame myself. And soon white-hot condemnation sears through my confidence, splitting it apart wider than the large oak I saw by the roadside one summer after a tornado had passed through.

How can I praise God in this? When is my “failure” merely His direction, His closing a door He doesn’t want me to enter? And when is it Him challenging me to push harder, to test the door, push it open all the way? Do I thank God for the direction then abandon that path? Or do I simply pray for more strength and retry? Can I praise Him by simply focusing on Him rather than myself? By choosing to rely firmly on Him to clearly light the path He wants me to take, I am praising Him.
I can praise Him by relinquishing all my own bits of fire, my own tiny lightning bolts, in recognition that He is the ultimate Power, not me. I can praise Him by releasing all my worries and stress, the ones I’ve been hanging onto, as if afraid that they would strike Him down. I can praise Him by simply admiring the artistic patterns He uses His lightning to trace across the sky.

I lift my eyes up to the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of heaven and earth

For now, I feel the after-storm quiet. Although I know this storm will last longer than I wish, it is already over. It is won, it is finished. I am His, forever. Which means nothing else, no other power, can claim me.
I will praise God in this storm!
For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
Neither angels nor demons,
Neither the present nor the future,
Nor any powers,
Neither height nor depth,
Nor anything else in all creation
Will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus
Our Lord.

-Romans 8:38-39