: a roundabout way temporarily replacing part of a route
It was Wednesday night and shaping up to be a lovely evening. Snow was falling - big, fat flakes that were swirling in the air and quickly covering everything in sight - grass, sidewalks, streets. The girls and I were cuddled inside. School had let out two hours early in anticipation of the snow. K and I had were on our way to drop her friend off at home after a play date when the flakes started falling. I knew the state of our pantry, so K and I made a quick stop at the grocery store on our way home - not to stock up on bread and milk like so many Nashvillians, but to grab that most essential of snow day items - hot chocolate.
Back at home, the girls read, sipped hot chocolate, then watched a science special on TV about the moon and its role in how our planet works. TV is generally off limits in our home on school days. When A and B started school, I let them watch two shows after school. Those were in the days before homework. And more importantly, in the days before dance. Because then A started taking dance two, three, four times weekly. We would get home from school and B would turn on PBS. Partway through her show, it would be time to turn it off and take A to dance. After a few months of this, I realized it would simply be easier to shut off television on school days rather than deal with ill tempered girls who weren't getting to see the end of anything and remained perpetually frustrated with their TV viewing time. (Fridays are the exception to this. We pop microwave popcorn and watch TV together until J gets home from work. It's serious down time that we all look forward to.) No TV on your typical Wednesday, but this was no typical Wednesday. After about 30 minutes to an hour of steady snow, it was clear there would be no school on Thursday. J was still at work, having opted to give the traffic some time to clear before attempting the drive home. Why not watch a bit more TV? Bedtime wasn't going to be heavily enforced. We decided to watch Live to Dance in the hopes that we could finish last week's episode before the finale aired at 7:00. At about 6:45, the oven was preheating, J was starting for home and we were two dances away from being ready to view the finale. Then the power went out.
At first, I just stopped what I was doing, hoping this was a flicker, not an outage. No such luck. We began gathering candles and bringing them all into the living room. As the girls went from room to room collecting by flashlight, I lit them one by one, until the living room was bathed in a pale yellow light. Then it was time to come up with a plan B for dinner. Frozen pizza wasn't going to be an option with no electricity for our awesome dual fuel stove. Cereal was served on trays in the living room. The girls were holding up admirably. K said a few times, "This is fun, but scary, too. Will the lights ever come back on?" I assured her that they would definitely come back on eventually. (I just had no idea when.)
After dinner, such as it was, we cleared the bowls away and pulled out blankets. The temperature wasn't dropping quickly thanks to our plaster walls, but I thought it would be better to stay warm rather than get cold and try to warm up. So we each put on a sweatshirt or hoodie and socks and shoes. Then we bundled up. Since my plan for the evening had been reliant on electricity - no Live to Dance with no power - it took me a while to realize there was a great back up plan right there on the library bookshelf.
We're not a big read aloud family. Since A & B learned to read so well at such young ages, we just never got in the habit of reading classic chapter books aloud to them. In spite of this, we've had some successes in this area. I remember with particular fondness reading The Iliad during last year's snow days and convalescence. Then not long ago, I shared an old love with B & K: Where the Sidewalk Ends. I've enjoyed sharing books aloud with the girls from time to time and our atypically cold winter has given up ample opportunity to be together inside. So I picked up a copy of Lafcadio last week in the hopes that I would find the right time to read it to the girls. I've never read it, but it looked like a book that would make a good read aloud. Given that we were without power, the streets of Nashville were in gridlock and J was slowly making his way home, this seemed like a pretty good time for a read aloud.
That's how J found us when he got home from his 90 minute commute (triple the typical 30 minutes): under blankets, in sleeping bags, reading and listening by candlelight. It wasn't how I had envisioned the night. It wasn't how my girls would have chosen to spend the night. But it was lovely - and an unexpected, detour of a blessing.
Before our snow induced blackout, I had been thinking about how God has used closed doors, blocked pathways and a simple "no" or two to offer blessings that I would never have experienced if I had been given my first choice. I was thinking about this in relation to homeschooling - something that I've found I really enjoy, where I am able to use my gifts and feel such rest and contentment. Our blackout evening felt like an exclamation point to the thought that a seemingly disappointing situation can actually be an opportunity to lead me to something better - if only I will be open to whatever the offering is. I could have chosen to be angry, worried, anxious, frustrated or any number of other things Wednesday evening. I could have refused the opportunity to curl up under a blanked and read about a lion who becomes a sharp shooter. I could have clung to my vision for the evening. But had I done that, I would have missed out on a lovely offering that turned out to be a far better, more memorable way to spend the evening than our original plan.
If I'll learn to hold loosely to my idea of what I need and want, I have a feeling I'll be amazed at the things that God brings that far surpass what I could ask for or imagine.