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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The First Moonwalk

Alvin had finished high school just before we married. He was a year older and a year ahead of me. As my class, Hickman 1969, donned their caps and gowns, I was preparing for yet another move. Having passed the test for his exhorters permit with the Assemblies of God, we packed our belongings to head for Neosho Missouri, the flower box city. Neosho was to be the home of the new Ozark Bible Institute.
Neosho, only 76 miles from the international headquarters of the Assemblies of God, was at odds with its denomination. Worldliness had crept in to the Assemblies in the form of lipstick, eye shadow, television, short hair, short sleeves, mixed bathing, and all manner of sinful behavior. Their quarrel was not doctrine. As they proclaimed, Without Holiness No Man Shall See the Lord, they held up the standard of holiness challenging the denomination with their righteousness.
Alvin was to be in the first class at OBI. As David confronting Goliath, OBI would be a challenge to the backslidden Evangel College and Central Bible Institute (now Evangel University and Central Bible College). We found an apartment on the second floor of a house on College Street. A small three-room apartment shared a bathroom with a room lent out to an older man from time to time. The plan was that I would work and help support him through school. We could walk to church and to downtown. Our landlady a pleasant but opinionate woman did childcare. They were worldly folk with a television. They didn't like the holiness people. They didn't understand why being Baptist was not enough for heaven. Nevertheless, our landlady had more compassion for me than most people.
Once settled, I began my job search. I would walk the square in Neosho day in and day out. There were that many stores. Persistence was the key to a job. I was 17-year-old high school drop out with a child. If I had money, my landlady would watch Nathan while I begged for a job. Other times, I carried him with me as I walked downtown to beg. Finally, the owner of the drugstore got sick of seeing me. He told me he'd hire me on a trial basis for 25 cents an hour. If I worked out he'd give me the normal pay of 50 cents an hour. It was my landlady who convinced me that I couldn't afford to work for that. It wouldn't cover the babysitting.
We couldn't afford formula for Nathan. He was too young for just milk. I followed a recipe I found for homemade formula. Using evaporated milk and adding corn syrup and water, I made my own formula. Evaporated milk was cheap. Even so, I would have to collect bottles and pennies to have enough to buy just a few cans of milk to feed our son. Alvin found a job working nights at the Buddy L plant. He would be making barbeque grills. He would go to school during the day and work at night.
I decided to try high school again. I enrolled in Neosho High School. As a married woman, I wore only holiness standard clothing. Only a single woman could wear her hair down, I would secure my hair tightly in a bun or a French roll. My face scrubbed I attempted to blend in with the class of 1970. Again, I took typing. The typewriters were all manual uprights. There were no letters on the keys to assure we learned to touch type on the QWERTY keyboard. Pounding the keys, I thought someday maybe I could get a good job as a secretary.
The evening of July 16, 1969 as we came home from the Wednesday evening church service, our landlady called to us. She asked us to come in to her home. She said we shouldn't miss history being made. Alvin, ever holy, forbid television watching. We had just left church. This Baptist temptress was luring us to forbidden territory. Live coverage of Neal Armstrong's stepping off the lunar module, the Eagle, was the bait. Ever sinful and prone to temptation, I begged to stay. We did. Nathan was placed on a pallet on the floor. I sat on the couch. Alvin clutched the doorknob still struggling in his soul with this sinful behavior. We watched the first moonwalk.
I had watched on the school television rolled into our classroom all the precursors to this day. In fuzzy black and white I saw Shepherd blast off into space. I had watched with wide eyes as John Glenn splashed down after orbiting the earth. I was so glad I didn't miss the winning lap of the race to space.
Alvin decided he didn't need Bible School after all. Back to Columbia we went. This time to another upstairs apartment west of Columbia over less hospitable landlords. My parents had moved to subsidized senior housing at Garth Towers. I was a frequent, too frequent guest in their home. We were thrown out of our apartment. We stayed with my parents. They were on the verge of being asked to leave because of our presence. My parents decided to rent a house that we could share. Our next stop was 909 Wilkes Blvd.
I got pregnant again. It was 1970. The Viet Nam war was raging. Uncle Sam promised money, insurance and security in return for service. Alvin decided it was time to do his duty for God and country. In spite of his deferment, he enlisted.

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.