Have you entered the storehouses of the snow...Job 38:22

Monday, February 7, 2011

Another Beginning

It's snowing in Tennessee. Seems I am not done with snow yet. It's a wet heavy snow and coming down pretty fast. The ground is covered but not the roads. The temperature right now is 39 degrees. If it drops too much, it might be a messy commute or evening.

It's nice to be "home." As much as any place is home, Tennessee is home right now. I woke up in my own bed. Fixed breakfast in my small kitchen. Everything is so familiar and yet it is strange.

As I left South Dakota last Thursday, I recorded some of my feelings as I left. I have put the audio together with some photographs from the last three years. It's a bit rambling in spots but I hope you'll take a few minutes and hear my reflections and thoughts as I left the Storehouse of Snow.

Likely this will be the last installment on this blog. I did record somethings as I entered back into Tennessee. I may post them here, we'll see. Although nothing I have said in this blog is necessarily profound or meaningful to anyone other than myself, I hope you've enjoyed taking this journey with me. As you listen and watch this video, it's not only my thoughts you'll hear, but my heart.

Leaving the Storehouse of Snow from Joyce Lighari on Vimeo.

And so this chapter is closed and a new journey begins....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Turning the key in the lock for the last time

It’s that day.  It’s that day I never thought would come and now is here too soon.  Life is so strange that way.  I have despaired this day would ever come.  I have prayed for it.  I have cried for it.  I have packed my things a million times in my head and imagined how it would be when I turn the key in the apartment door for the last time.

In a couple hours, when I turn the key, it really won’t be the last time.  There will be one more trip with family crew in tow.  We will empty the apartment to the walls and carpet.  Our South Dakota acquired furniture will jostle in the back of a U-Haul to its new home in Kingston Springs.  It will be such a stressful trip that the emotions of leaving will be hidden under the rapid movements of people hurrying perhaps to beat a storm, get back to work, and life.  Maria, my youngest grandchild will keep us distracted as she chatters and seeks attention.

I’ve thought of this day so many times.  It’s here.  I have written so many wonderful blogs as I’ve laid in bed in the early morning or tossed and turned avoiding sleep at night.  The inspiration will come again.  I will put those thoughts on paper.  I still have things to say about the Storehouse of Snow. 

I think I’ve been silent on this blog for the last few days because I’m in pain.  It’s not the same pain that I struggled with for months and years during this sojourn to the crucible.  This pain is a good pain.  It is the pain of evaluation and reflection.  It is the pain of parting with friends.  It is the pain of realizing that when you face the truth, the truth is never what it seems.  I’ve said before, it never really was about South Dakota.  It was about me. 

Yesterday we had lunch with some of the people who work with my husband.  His support staff and a new hire that is a friend of mine.  We chatted over food.  He mostly with his support staff, me with my friend.  It was an odd but pleasant lunch.  When time came to say good-bye, there were a few hugs.  His main support person cried.  My husband patted her on the shoulder as they disengaged from a farewell hug.  He said what I’ve heard many times when I’ve cried.  Be strong, be strong.  Those words never seemed comforting to me, but I wondered they brought her any comfort for her.  I hope so. 

My next stop was Wal-Mart.  Yes, Brookings Wal-Mart, home of much of angst and ire over rudeness and unfriendliness.  I remembered not to smile and say excuse me.  I will have to work on my manners when I get home.  But my perspective is different.  I didn’t get angry.  From there I went to McDonald’s for a last un-coffee with a friend.  Neither of us drank coffee and I had nothing.

As I walked in the door, a woman, also named Joyce who cleared tables and used to give us free cookies was waiting for a ride.  She greeted me and said: “Are you the one who is leaving?  Are you leaving Brookings?  Why are you leaving?  Don’t you like us?”  I was stunned.  I guess my friend had told her while she was waiting.  Maybe Joyce asked about me.  We hadn’t been to McDonalds for a long time.  Perhaps she missed us.

As I composed myself to answer her, I thought there was a time if I had been truthful I would have said “NO, I hate this place and can’t wait to leave.  Leaving couldn’t come soon enough.”  But I’ve changed.  Something has changed inside of me.  That’s what crucibles do, they mark you, the cause you deep despair, and then they change you.  To Joyce, I replied, we have family.  We have kids and family in Tennessee, we are just going home.  She smiled and said “we’ll miss you.”

I never thought I’d feel this way.  And I certainly never thought I’d admit it, but I will miss South Dakota.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I wrote on my other blog, Sounds of Hope about googly eyes.  Through google and other means, I have a pretty good idea of where people come from who read my blog.  I’m always curious.  Lately, Sounds of Hope seems to have a global interest.  Google analytics tells me that every day, at least a few people put my name in a search engine.  I think that scares me.  It makes me wonder.  Yet, I have put myself out here in the cyber world to tell my stories. 

This particular blog has been about my journey to the crucible of South Dakota.  Yesterday, from what I can piece together from comments, google analytics and other tracking, someone from Madison SD found this blog.  The comment they left indicated that they didn’t understand why I wrote the blog.  I evidently hit a nerve.

Madison SD is a rather pleasant college town about 50 miles from here.  The first summer we were here we spent a few hours there.  It was the year of the presidential primaries.  We ran into Bill Clinton who was campaigning on a misty rainy day in that fair city.  We stopped at the local McDonald’s and saw that people use it as a place to play cards as well.  As far as SD towns are concerned, Madison seems nice. 

It was interesting that someone from Madison would just happen to stumble on my blog.  If people from India, China, Russia, the Philippines and even some places I’ve never heard of happen to stumble on Sounds of Hope, I guess it’s not unusual.  I felt bad that they were offended by my ramblings.  I found it interesting in a blog where I was coming to terms with South Dakota in what I thought was a more positive frame of mind would be offensive.  Oh, I know that my blogs have caused some rankle and rage by some of the good folk of South Dakota.  But with perhaps the exception of my ranting about Governor Daugaard, I attempted to let readers know that this was about me – not the state.  Even the first blog I wrote on Storehouses seemed to make that pretty clear – at least I thought so.  It was a person from Madison who first asked me what God had for me in the Storehouses of Snow.  How ironic?!

I responded to this fine person from Madison that I wished I had met them.  They said they smiled and said “God Bless You.”  For those of you who know I have a penchant for sarcasm.  This is not sarcasm.  I appreciate so much the “Sunbeams” I’ve met here in South Dakota.  The sunbeams who didn’t like what I said sometimes but looked beyond that and understood.  And those precious but wonderful few who held my hand, assuring me it would be okay, and helped lead me out of my own misery.  Maybe this person from Madison could have been a friend.  I wonder how many other good people I missed meeting while I was here.  I could have used more friends but God gave me enough.  The ones He gave me will forever be in my heart.  

It’s almost over.  This sojourn to what for me has been a crucible is over.  I mentioned Kathleen Norris when I started this blog.  She’s not popular with a lot of South Dakotans either.  I think she probably is just as misunderstood as I am.  But that’s okay.  I’m in good company. 

To the fine folk of South Dakota, especially my new accidental reader(s) in Madison, I wish you well.  This blog will continue until the last piece of furniture is out of the state.  Until then, keep reading as I process these last few days in the Storehouse of Snow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank You South Dakota

Someone asked me why I thought God had brought us to South Dakota.  That’s a very good question.  One I’ve been struggling with for three years.  I did have an answer for her.  It was to get to know my husband. 

Okay, I know we’ve been married for 33 years.  You’d think I’d know him pretty well.  And I do.  I tell him that I have a PhD in him.  I study him.  I know his habits.  When he’s in the bathroom in the morning if I listen for ten seconds, I know exactly how much longer it will be before he’s done.  I know his favorite foods. I know how he likes his eggs.  I know his likes and dislikes.  I know his sizes.  There isn’t much I didn’t know about my husband, even before we came to the land of snow and ice.

So why did I have to come here to know my husband that I didn’t know.  When the call came for us to come to South Dakota we were celebrating our anniversary at a beach in Florida.  We’d been married for 30 years.  I don’t often get my husband to go to Florida nor does he love the beach as I do.  It had the potential to be such a perfect day.  We were there for five days.  Usually our anniversary trips are overnight, if that. 

Birds at Coco Beach

Picture I took as we left the beach that evening

It was an omen of things to come.  I said to him, do you realize this is the longest we’ve ever been alone, just the two of us?  He married a ready-made family of 4, my three children and me.  In a little over a year of the “I do” our first child came, then another, and another, and another and another.  Organized and disorganized chaos was the manner of our lives.  Kids, careers, life – always busy.  Somehow we managed to stay together in spite of some very serious challenges.  Sometimes our love continued through all manner of disappointments, discouragement, and despair.  We survived illness, death, and poverty.  Trust me, I’m not being dramatic either.  We went through hell and back quite a few times. 

For the last three years, it’s been him and I, alone.  Those five days that seems so unique are now our way of life.  At times, we came close to not making it.  The pressures of job and snow almost shattered our lives.  I sunk into a deep depression.  He fought battles at work.  We learned that without each other, we couldn’t stand the pressure.  We learned how to hang on to each other.  In the process, I fell more deeply in love with my husband than I ever dreamed possible.  Why?  Because I’ve seen his character.  I’ve learned he is a man who can be faithful.  I’ve learned to put the issues of the past, in the past.  I’ve learned to forgive.  I’ve learned that he loves me.

I’m watching him sadly begin to disconnect from his dream job.  I’m watching him bring home personal remnants from his office.  I see his sad face as people ignore him and marginalize him.  I see how hurt he is by the lack of appreciation from those he cared so deeply for and helped.  I’ve seen a man who truly cared for the people of South Dakota and Extension hang his head as in cannibalistic fashion, they jockey for position.  I hurt for him.

He’s strong.  But I’ve seen his vulnerable side.  I’ve leaned on him.  I am going to be strong, so he can lean on me through this transition.  It’s the least I can do.

Yes, ours is a great love story, and it's not over.  We go back to Tennessee more in love with each other than when we came to South Dakota.  For that, I suppose I will have to say Thank You to South Dakota and it's Storehouse of Snow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Heart There Rings A Melody

If you have read much of my blogging, you know I have a memory and love for old hymns and gospel songs.  Sometimes they just seem to pop into my head like a jukebox of the past.  Some of the things that spin in my mind even Bill Gaither’s Homecoming haven’t done.  Some of them I hear with a Norwegian accent, others I hear with the magnificent sounds of the Salem Gospel Tabernacle choir.  Yet other times I think of Sister Crandall leading the Calvary Tabernacle choir or Sister Parker on the piano.  The other day a song popped into my mind, I searched for it on youtube and found it played on the organ.  That reminded me of a former Pastor, Lon Calloway who could make you love organ music. 

The last two days, two golden oldies have been floating around in my head.  Until I looked up the lyrics I had the two merged in my head.  I hear these songs with a Norwegian accent and picture Doris on the piano, Fran on the organ, Elise on the vibraharp, Bob on the saw, Erik on the trumpet, Ruth on the trombone, and Oscar on the banjo.  Later I would sit with these saints playing an odd little green instrument called a melodica. 

Sounds of my childhood forever etched in my ears memory.  With a thin red hymnal with three gold crosses in my hand, I would sing along. 

These songs floating in my head are happy songs.  For so long, happy songs have been absent from my mental jukebox.  As I have pondered the words of these songs, I realize they are my testimony.  A testimony of how God has worked in my life in the Storehouse of Snow. 

I’d share a youtube video with you, but it seems they are lacking of these two precious old songs.  The first one, “Whosoever Meaneth Me” was written in 1910:

I am happy today, and the sun shines bright,
The clouds have been rolled away;
For the Savior said, whosoever will
May come with Him to stay

All my hopes have been raised, O His Name be praised
His glory has filled my soul;
I’ve been lifted up, and from sin set free,
His blood has made me whole.

Simple words from another time still have meaning.  I am happy today.  I can see the sunshine.  My hope has been raised.  I’ve struggled with demons of depression, sadness, and fear for so long that I thought I’d never see the sunshine bright again.  I thought the clouds would never disappear.  Thank God, they have.  Lest anyone think it is just because I am leaving South Dakota, it isn’t the leaving that has given me hope.  It is the faithfulness of God to make me “whole” or ‘holy.’

Sin isn’t always about what you do.  Sin is often the effects of others who have sinned against us.  This time in the Storehouse has caused me to face and name the sins that have been done against me and experiencing the grace to make me holy and whole.  This is where my hope comes from.  And caused me to merge with those verses above, the chorus to It is Truly Wonderful What the Lord Has Done:

It is truly wonderful what the Lord has done
It is truly wonderful, it is truly wonderful
It is truly wonderful what the Lord has done
Glory to His name

My mental jukebox is playing another song now as I reflect further on my sojourn in the Storehouse – it reminds me that in my heart there is a melody.  It reminds me that Jesus still sweeps across the broken strings and stirs slumbering chords.  Amen.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I’ve commented a lot about the people here in the Northern Plains.  I so wish that my experience had been better here.  I also wish occasionally I could have been quieter about my struggle, my observations, and my opinions.  But I haven’t been.  Truth is rarely pure.  What is truth for me is based on my own experiences. 

The first temperature I saw on my computer this morning was minus 13.  It’s minus 13 here in Brookings.  It has climbed to minus 11.  The good news is there isn’t as much wind today.  The better news is that the sun is out.  Sunshine and light just make everything better.  It’s so easy to let the negative overpower the positive.  It is so easy to concentrate on these frigid temperatures, rather than the sun.  I’ve been guilty of that with my assessments of the people of the Northern Plains. 

Overall I’ve found the temperature of the people here pretty cold.  There are times when to say they’re responses to me have left me as shivering as if I went outside today.  I’ve always admitted I had a bad attitude when I first came here, but I did attempt to be friendly.  My attitude was based on personal issues with the decision to come here, not the people.  The attitudes about the people came from experience.  Even my oft harangues about trips to the local Wal-Mart came after my excuse me and smiles were met with sour expressions and glares. 

I’ve neglected to focus on the sun.  There are people I have met here who are some of the nicest I’ve met anywhere.  There are friends here who have so warmed my heart that I will cry when the day comes for me to leave this frigid wilderness.  Parting will be different and sadder when I leave here.  Everywhere else I’ve left, I always knew I’d go back to visit, or live.  Not so here.  When I leave I probably will never return.  Shockingly, that makes me incredibly sad. 

The sunbeams in this wilderness experience are relatively few.  But their warmth and love is exceedingly wonderful.  Perhaps you need the frigid to enjoy the warm just as you need sorrow and pain to full experience joy.  I would attempt to name you, my sunbeams of warmth, but you know who you are.  I hope you know how much your warmth means to me. 

It sounds corny, but perhaps we should join in a chorus of:

Cornyness and over sentimentality aside, there are some of you who really have been sunshine for me.  I may not hold you in my arms, but you will forever be in my heart.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Core Values

Just when I thought I was beginning to get South Dakota, just a little bit, I am reminded how much I don’t get it here.  It’s been snowing for a couple for a couple of days.  It’s also snowing in Nashville.  Now to people up here, I realize it sounds ridiculous that with just the forecast of snow, they closed many of the schools last night.  I understand that Atlanta is under a state of emergency this morning because they had 6 inches of snow. 

Its fine and dandy to say that the south has no plows and therefore needs more time to get the snow cleaned up.  That’s true.  They don’t have that many plows.  However, at least in TN they were out with the brine on the road and had the salt trucks ready to go. 

Remember that heavy dump of snow in the Northeast?  They got more in the last few days in Connecticut.  I used to love those major snows in Connecticut.  I even had a job where I made decisions about closings when I lived there.  Everything would stop for a few hours, maybe a day when the snow fell in Connecticut.  The big difference there was they had enough plows and actually used them expeditiously. 

I-90 the major east - west interstate through South Dakota
I-29 the major north-south interstate through South Dakota
I’m no stranger to snow.  Someone was shocked yesterday that I used pretty and snow in the same sentence.  I’ve used that language before, they just never heard it.  Why?  Because I just don’t get it here.  I don’t get why if they aren’t going to buy and use plows to actually clean the roads when it snows, why they don’t at least close things so people can stay safe.  They do neither.

In an attempt to understand South Dakota better I decided to listen to governor of South Dakota Dennis Duagaard’s inauguration speech.  It wasn’t a bad speech.  You can hear it here.  He kept it fairly short and to the point.  He talked about South Dakotans core values.  They were self-reliance, persistence, and frugality. 

Governor Duagaard did help me understand.  He talked about how the settlers who came to South Dakota were self-reliant.  He also said the natives before them were also self-reliant.  I think he was wrong.  I’m not native nor do I think I know that much about native culture.  However, I think community is important in native culture.  He went on to talk about not being dependent.  I guess that’s part of the reason why the state feels no responsibility to clear the roads in a timely fashion or close the schools.  It is up to you to be safe.  It is up to you to be able to afford a 4-wheel drive.  If you can’t afford one, and you die on the road, that’s your problem-self-reliance.  After all it was your fault if you do. 

Duagaard talked about helping someone who has fallen but if they don’t get up right away and work themselves, you should leave they lie there.  What about the old, what about children, what about people with emotional or physical disabilities?  Using the word MUST he proclaimed that South Dakota must be self-reliant.  Thank you very much Governor Duagaard, I prefer to rely on God.  Relying on myself usually gets me in trouble.  Quoting Calvin Coolidge he talked about persistence.  Then he moved on to frugality.  

Everyone chuckled as he told a story of someone who publically embarrassed some people from California saying welcome to South Dakota a state that pays its bills.  I am sure they felt a warm friendly welcome here.

No I don’t get it.  I guess I never will.  The Bible talks about caring for one another without reservation.  In all the encounters Jesus had with people in need, He never told one of them to work harder or get a job to solve their problems.  He just gave them what they needed.  Jesus fed hungry people without a means test.  

We are called as the people of God to be in community, to be one body.  We are called to sacrifice for each other just as Christ sacrificed for us.  Scripture principles call for interconnectedness and mutual dependence.  It calls for generosity, not frugality and withholding from those in need.  1 Corinthians 12 cautions us not to tell the weaker part of the body that we have no need for it.  In fact, we give it special treatment.

It is still snowing.  People will end up in ditches, some will die, others will slip and fall on the ice breaking bones.  I guess that they just weren't self-reliant enough.  I guess it’s better to save a penny then save a life. 

I know this blog will not endear me any further to some people.  I am sorry about that.  Really I am.  I would prefer you liked me.  But it’s just the way I see it.  My core values and South Dakota’s core values as declared by the Governor just don’t match.  My core values are caring about people without reservation and generosity.  What about you? What are your core values?  Snowy days are a good time to think about such things.

DISCLAIMER: Before I get in too much trouble with my blog, these views are MY OWN and do not reflect that of any other member of my family.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm Limping

South Dakota and I have been 
wrestling as Jacob wrestled at Peniel.  

it does look a bit like parts of South Dakota, doesn't it?

Do you know the story?  You probably have heard parts of it or think you know it.  It is but a few verses in Genesis 32, it reads:
24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." 27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." 28 Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." 29 Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved."
Maybe it sounds dramatic to you that I compare my time here in South Dakota to this story in Genesis.  Without knowing the depths of despair I have felt, the aloneness, the fear – you would be right.  Jacob was afraid of his brother.  He was facing an uncertain future.  He was removed (in his case by his own wishes) from his family and all things familiar.
I think Jacob faced himself that night.  I think he dealt with all sorts of memories and life issues.  Whatever or whoever it was that appeared to Jacob, this experience changed Jacob forever.  Wrestling with self is wrestling with God.  It’s asking those tough questions.  It’s asking the why and facing painful truth that causes you to look at yourself in truth.
I think South Dakota has caused me to limp.  I know South Dakota has blessed me.  Yes, I really did say that.  In the midst of all my complaining and whining that was really the expression of pain, I’ve been changed and therefore, I have been blessed.  I’ve called South Dakota a crucible.  It has been.  Yet, it has changed me in ways I am sure I still don’t realize.

I tried so hard not to connect and yet I cried in desperation for connection.  The harsh winds of disappointment seemed unrelenting over the last three years.  The coldness of aloneness left me paralyzed.  I’ve honestly thought I would die as the cold and winds continued.  Springs were far too short.  Summer brought confusion rather than relief.  Fall came quickly and winter seemed never ending.
I’m better though.  I’ve wrestled with South Dakota and we both won.  South Dakota changed me.  Changed me forever and for better.  I’ve wrestled with myself.  I’ve seen once again that God knows best, and will bring me through the harshness of life.  My life has been preserved.  I’m ready for the future in a way I haven’t been in a very, very long time.  I’m actually thankful for this limp, for it means I’ve survived the crucible of encounter with the face of the Lord.